Every cocktail needs a sweet element to balance the bitter, strong, and sour.
Often that sweetness is achieved with simple syrups, agave nectar, honey, or if you’re getting fancy, orgeat. Looking for a complex – and ready to use — alternative to your basic, simple syrups? Small batch producers are stepping up in a big way, with artisanal syrups that are far from simple.
And, with the growing popularity of the Soda Stream and other similar products, expertly crafted, bottled syrups can now fill the demand for bases in all-natural sodas and tonics as well. By extension, these items provide exciting new ingredients with which to customize your cocktails.
Whether you’re looking for an alternative to the high fructose corn syrup in commercial sodas or you’re experimenting with classic cocktail ingredients like grenadine, orgeat, or gomme syrup, the four producers of artisanal syrups highlighted below can help you add complexity to your cocktails without having to create syrups of your own.
Organic Fair: Soda Syrups
An herbalist/chef met a farmer/essential oil distiller, and they fell madly in love. The result was the husband and wife team of Organic Fair, who, taking their cue from old school apothecaries, created a line of soda syrups using organic fair trade cane sugar and a cornucopia of herbs, spices, botanicals, and fruits.
Their Kola is made from real kola nut, citrus, and black tea, which replaces the phosphoric acid often found in colas, resulting in a full bodied cola with a dry, tannic finish. Complementing modern gins where juniper takes a backseat, the citrus and spices of Organic Fair’s Kola highlight the array of botanicals that form a modern gin’s bouquet.
Gin & Kola
Courtesy of Organic Fair
- 1 1/2 oz. of Ampersand Gin
- 1 1/2 tbsp. Organic Fair Kola Syrup
- 1 tbsp. Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
- 6-7 oz. Chilled Soda Water
- 4 dashes Angostura Bitters
- Lemon Balm and Lavender, Wrapped in Lime Rind, for Garnish
- Lime Wheel, for Garnish
Preparation: Add the first three ingredients to a highball glass and give them a stir. Add the amount of ice that you enjoy, then add the soda water, finish with bitters and gently stir again. Garnish as above or more simply.
Small Hand Foods: Yeoman Tonic Syrup
Small Hand Foods is the brainchild of The Slanted Door’s bartender Jennifer Colliau. Known for her attention to historical detail, support of local farmers, and commitment to sourcing high quality ingredients, Colliau makes not one, but two tonic syrups among an impressive arsenal of gomme syrups, grenadine, and orgeat.
Her most recent tonic syrup creation is the Yeoman Tonic, a collaboration with Beefeater’s master distiller, Desmond Payne. Named for the Yeoman Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, or “Beefeaters”, the Yeoman Tonic is less bitter than Colliau’s original tonic syrup and features additional citrus notes designed to complement Beefeater Gin.
Courtesy of Small Hand Foods
- 1 oz. Beefeater Gin (or other London Dry Style Gin)
- 1/2 oz. Small Hand Foods Yeoman Tonic Syrup
- 2 1/2 oz. Soda Water
- Lemon or Lime Slice, for Garnish
Preparation: Add Yeoman tonic syrup and gin to a highball glass. Stir to incorporate. Add ice and soda water. Garnish with a lemon or lime slice.
Sonoma Syrups: Lime Cordial (Lime Simple Syrup)
Inspired by California’s wine country, Sonoma Syrups are made with all natural botanicals infused in pure cane sugar syrup. In addition to syrups, Sonoma Syrup makes extracts and bar mixers including an olive juice made from 100% pure California olives aged in old wine barrels. Their Lime Simple Syrup is made by combining both California Persian lime juice and Florida key lime juice with zest from the limes which imparts a complex lime flavor that shines in cocktails.
Courtesy of Sonoma Syrups
- 2 oz. Gin
- 1/2 oz. Sonoma Syrups Lime Cordial
- 1/2 oz. Lime Juice
Preparation: Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail coupe.
Strong Tonic: Hibiscus Tonic Syrup
Strong Tonic, from Oklahoma City, is modernizing the iconic tonic, blending the classic flavors of quinine with non-traditional flavors, like cinnamon or pear, resulting in two nouveau tonics.
Their Hibiscus Tonic is tart and one of a kind, with notes of vanilla and baking spice, adding a complex layer of flavor and a beautiful crimson hue to your cocktails.
Red, Red Wine
Courtesy of Strong Tonic
- 1 cup Hibiscus Strong Tonic
- 1 cup Brandy
- 1 cup Strong Chai Tea
- 1 Bottle Syrah, Zinfandel, or Other Bold Red Wine
- 1 cup Chopped Seasonal Fruit
Preparation: Combine in a punch bowl and serve on ‘auto pilot’ for a party or assemble in a 1/2 gallon pitcher and let ‘marry’ overnight in the fridge. Serve in ice filled red wine glasses.