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Top Note Tonic Is 'Only Getting Started' In The World Of No-Proof & Low-Proof Drinks

Whether you’re participating in dry January or still drinking alcohol, tonics and mixers can be enjoyed regardless. And while Milwaukee is best known as a beer brewing city, more spirit distilleries have made the city home. Top Note Tonic has been here since 2014, adding its artisanal mixers to the growing field.

Last October, the Milwaukee-based company began making its non-alcoholic sparkling mixers and aromatic tonics out of Octopi Brewing Company in Waunakee, Wis. It’s just the latest indicator in the growing market for non-alcoholic beverages and the trend of quality over quantity when it comes to mixers.

Mary Pellettieri is cofounder of Top Note Tonic. She says its creations hope to change the way people see — and taste — tonics.

"No-proof, low-proof cocktailing is only getting started."

In a market that hasn't seen much innovation since tonic water came out commercially 60 years ago, Pellettieri says "no-proof, low-proof cocktailing is only getting started."

Credit Lauren Sigfusson
While 43% of the liquor aisle is premium, only 5% of mixers reach that status.

"Mixers play a massive role in that, so we're really happy to be in this category at this time because it does allow us to consider the category differently. And we think more adult like in our flavor profiles," she adds.

As people look for different ways of imbibing, if the base of a drink is well balanced, Pellettieri says "it'll stand up to just about anything."

Quality over quantity not only applies to trends in mixers but in alcohol too. While people may be drinking less, what they are drinking is top shelf, according Pellettieri.

"Fourty-three percent of the liquor aisle right now is premium, and that part of the liquor category continues to grow because people are just simply trading up," she explains. "They might be drinking less, but they’re trading up for it and that means that they’re going to make a better cocktail."

Credit Lauren Sigfusson
Mary Pelletiere makes Top Note Tonic cocktails in the studio. She makes a classic Gin & Tonic made with Rehorst Gin from Great Lakes Distillery and tonic water; Dark & Stormy made with ginger beer and Twisted Path Distillery Rum; and a Rye Sour with Koval whiskey mixed and grapefruit soda.

While nearly half of the liquor aisle is premium, only 5% of the mixers in the United States reach that level says Pellettieri. "We've got a massive gap to fill to what people are actually buying in the spirits line. But the commoditized soft drinks that people are buying are just not worth the cost of the liquor that you're mixing it with. So I always try to encourage folks to actually look at the ingredient label," she notes.

"You don't have to be a mixologist to make a great cocktail, you just need great ingredients," says Pellettieri.

Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.