Holiday cocktails: Mixing it up with Sugar House Libations
Megan Pales, Bobby Taylor and Kenny Byron enjoy cocktails made with quality whiskey, gin or brandy.
But the Salt Lake City friends consider it a crime to mix those high-end spirits with mediocre syrups made with artificial flavors and high-fructose corn syrup.
It's one of the reasons the 30-something trio launched Sugar House Libations, a line of simple syrups that can be used for cocktails and cooking.
Made with fresh fruits and infused with herbs and spices, the syrups make it easy to mix bar-quality drinks at home during the holidays and the rest of the year.
Sugar House Libations keeps the "simple" in its syrups.
"We like to do one fruit and one spice or herb so the taste isn't muddled and you can pick out the flavors," said Pales. Examples include pear-ginger, raspberry-mint and plum-lavender.
"We try and use whatever is in season so we can keep sourcing as close to home as possible," she said. This summer the company offered an apricot -lemongrass and a strawberry-thyme syrup. For the holidays they are selling green apple -cinnamon.
While they initially wanted to use beet sugar a tie to Utah's agricultural history as a sweetener, they decided on organic cane sugar and filtered water.
Holiday beginnings • The business concept came together last year, when Pales and Taylor, who are now engaged, made a lemon-flavored simple syrup to give to friends for Christmas. "Everyone asked us 'Where can we buy that,' " she said.
Even before that, though, Taylor and Byron, who had been friends for years, had been talking about starting a business. Pales had floated the idea of a project as well.
While they have diverging day jobs: sports medicine, pricing and network administrator, the owners are all self-described DIY-ers with hobbies that include brewing beer, making furniture and jewelry.
"We're all crafty and grew up canning and preserving," Pales said. "I don't think it would work as well if it wasn't a pleasure and an outlet for us."
Sugar House Libations began selling its simple syrups earlier this year at the Downtown Market at Pioneer Park. Today, they can be purchased at the bi-weekly winter market at the Rio Grande Depot, Park City Meat and Provisions and Mod a-go-go, a consignment store in Salt Lake City that carries mid-century modern barware and furniture.
The 750-ml bottle, which costs $18, will make about 25 cocktails, said Pales. The bottles, which include a neck hanger with recipes, are easy to spot with a black and white label reminiscent of something from a 1920s speakeasy.
Sweet praise • The Mariposa restaurant at Deer Valley Resort is using Sugar House Libations pear-ginger syrup in a its Winter Spice martini, said assistant manager Kera Murphy. The drink, mixed with pear-flavored vodka and garnished with a flamed cinnamon stick, goes well with several of the restaurant's winter desserts.
Deer Valley was drawn to the product because it's made with "seasonal fruit to maintain freshness" and "contains only four ingredients: filtered water, sugar, fruit and an herb or a spice," said Murphy. "Their philosophy flows along with ours, which is simple and natural food."
While cocktails are the most common use for the simple syrups, they also can be used to add all natural flavors to Italian sodas, lemonades, smoothies and other non-alcoholic drinks.
They also can be used to enhance baked goods, said Laura Muir, who writes the Fresh Cooking = Happy People blog. At a summer fundraiser, Muir bid and won a gift basket of Sugar House Libations syrups.
The Sandy cook, who doesn't drink alcohol, said she has enjoyed experimenting with the local product. She used the pear-ginger syrup as a glaze on cinnamon rolls; and the green-apple cinnamon to flavor French toast and boost the fruit factor in smoothies and other blended drinks.
"It's been really fun to have this gourmet item in the kitchen to play around with," she said. "It really adds some zing to everyday recipes."
Flavored vodkas for Christmas
Ogden's Own Distillery recently released two vodkas with holiday flavors: Sinful, a cinnamon-flavored vodka, and Heavenly, a vanilla vodka.
Owner Steve Conlin said the cinnamon-flavored spirits are one of the hottest items in the liquor industry, a trend that started with Fireball Cinnamon Whisky. Made by the Louisiana-base Sazerac Co., the spirit's sales have nearly tripled since 2012.
Since then, other companies have jumped on the bandwagon including Ogden's Own.
Conlin said while Fireball Whiskey tastes similar to red-hot cinnamon candies. Utah's Own's has a softer flavor. "Ours is more like a cinnamon roll."
While developing Sinful, Conlin and his team happened upon a vanilla flavor they liked and Heavenly was born.
The vodkas have enough flavor that cocktail takes only one or two ingredients, Conlin said, noting that he has added the vanilla flavor to Coca-Cola and cream soda with good results.
Both of the spirits sell for $17.95 and are available in the distillery's on-sight retail shop at 3075 Grant Ave.
This line of locally-made simple syrups, made with fresh fruit, herbs and spices and organic cane sugar, can be used for cocktails and cooking.
Where to buy • Bi-weekly Winter Market at the Rio Grande Depot, 300 South Rio Grande, Salt Lake City; Mod a-go-go, 242 E South Temple, Salt Lake City; and Park City Meat and Provisions, 1890 Bonanza Dr., Park City.
Cost • $18 per 750 ml bottle.
Pear-Ginger Bourbon Fizz
1/4 cup ginger-pear infused syrup
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 1/2 ounces bourbon
1/2 teaspoon honey
4 thyme sprigs, plus 1 for garnish
4 ounces club soda
In a cocktail shaker, add ice, syrup, lemon juice, bourbon, honey and all 4 sprigs of thyme. Shake the mixture a bit, then strain into a low-ball or rocks glass. Add club soda. Garnish with remaining sprig of thyme.
Servings • 1
Source: Sugar House Libations
This cocktail includes an ingredient from The Queens' Tea, another artisan food company in Salt Lake City.
1 1/2 ounces rum
1 1/2 ounces raspberry-mint infused syrup
4 ounces fresh brewed Christmas Magic, a vanilla flavored black tea.
In a cocktail glass, combine rum, syrup and warm tea. Stir to combine.
Servings • 1
Source: Sugar House Libations
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