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In 2017, our household received a free bottle of tonic water with a drinks order.

It was a 200ml bottle of Merchant’s Heart Hibiscus tonic water.

The Japanese drinks giant Suntory makes Merchant’s Heart mixers. In addition to Hibiscus, they also have a floral tonic and a pink peppercorn one.

Merchant’s Heart mixers went on sale in 2015, but I’d not heard of them until last year. This was at the time that hibiscus and yuzu flavours were becoming more popular in the UK.

Suntory’s website explains that they recruited a team of bartenders from the UK to help develop the product line:

A collective of world-leading drink-makers from the UK’s best bars were invited to help devise the ultimate spirit enhancers: the mixers they dreamed of adding to the best spirits in their collections.

And they continue to craft the collection, suggesting new flavours and variations according to their experience of working with Merchant’s Heart in their bars, and serving it to their customers.

Cool!

The product line’s name came from Suntory’s founder himself (emphasis in the original):

In 1899, Suntory founder Shinjiro Torii had a vision: he wanted to bring western drinking experiences to his native Japan. He made it his life’s work to make and sell outstanding drinks, and deliver exceptional drinking experiences.

Torii’s passion for his product saw him graduate from modest beginnings as a small wine-maker to becoming the Taisho – or chief – of a luxury drinks brand with world renown. But his mantra remained characteristically humble:

‘We may have grown from shop to company, but we must always be a tradesman; we must never forget our merchant’s heart’.

So, what was it like?

Merchant’s Heart Hibiscus is a delicate pink colour with a distinctive flavour, with added extracts of safflower, lemon and apple:

Delicate and fruity sweetness with a soft bitterness and a gentle rose tint. Excellent with citrus gin, vermouth and white rum.

It’s something the ladies will love, and as we are nearing holiday season, it’s time to be thinking about interesting mixers for spirits.

I also enjoyed reading the bottle, which says:

Made with Bikan Yuso

which means:

A sense of beauty and playful imagination

Pros: It works equally well with vodka or gin, transforming a pleasant everyday drink into an unforgettable one. It’s perfect just before dinner.

Cons: I had two drinks out of the bottle, one before and one after dinner. The flavour profile changed dramatically. For those who need to eat while they’re drinking, Hibiscus is not the mixer. That lovely floral-citrus taste turns rather rough with food.

Conclusion: Suntory’s ‘spirit enhancers’ are not cheap. They sell at the supermarket for £1 to £1.35 each. Therefore, I would reserve them for connoisseurs only.

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