The Midas Touch Cocktail is like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow ~ it’s made with a unique saffron simple syrup, cognac, sherry, lemon juice and bitters ~ and if you’re looking for a new signature cocktail, this might be it!
If you’ve been in Williams Sonoma recently you might have noticed them. Colorful little apothecary style bottles filled with unusual flavors like cardamom clove and saffron. Working from the beautiful coast of Maine, Royal Rose hand makes small batch gourmet simple syrups from organic, fair-trade ingredients so that you don’t have to rely on your local bartender to make you an explosively creative cocktail. Yes, you’ll need Royal Rose to help make this Midas Touch Cocktail, but you won’t want to lock these syrups away in your liquor cabinet, either, you can use them in everything from Thai stir-fry to homemade soda. to your morning oatmeal.
Artificial flavorings are one of my biggest pet peeves, like those awful ‘blueberry bits’ in mass-produced muffins, or the chemical taste in a bad piña colada mix, it all sets my teeth on edge. But I can sleep easier knowing that Royal Rose is out there preserving and promoting pure flavors for all of us. Their well-edited lineup ranges from the delicate floral of Rose, to the fiery spice in Three Chilies and the exotic twang of Tamarind. It’s so interesting that the cocktail industry, even more than the food industry, is on the cutting edge of flavor experimentation today. Thanks to companies like Royal Rose we don’t have to sit on the sidelines; we can join in the fun.
Forrest Butler and Emily Butters are the 30-something husband and wife team behind these simple syrups with complex flavors. This week I got to ask the two of them a few questions about their business, their products, and their future plans… Afterwards I’ll leave you with the recipe for a glorious cocktail made with their saffron syrup and a GIVEAWAY..so don’t go away!
TVFGI: How did you two get started in this business, and why the coast of Maine?
EMILY: Forrest is a former bartender and bar manager, and when we lived together in Brooklyn, he started experimenting with simple syrups, infusing them with fresh local produce that I would bring home from the co-op or the green market. They were just delicious, and we made a lot of cocktails along the way. (It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.) As for Maine, we were married in Bar Harbor in 2011, and I have always thought Portland was a an amazing place. There are a lot of creative people working in the food industry there, and the cocktail scene is on the rise, too. The move just made sense for us, especially with our business growing quickly.
TVFGI: What is special about your syrups? Why does the world need them?
EMILY: It’s a shame when people use top-shelf, premium spirits, and then they mix them with ingredients that are loaded with chemicals and fake flavor. We have some intriguing and unique flavors, but above all our products are very, very high quality. We have one 40 gallon steam kettle and we make every single batch ourselves. We use whole ingredients and organic cane sugar. These kinds of choices are even more important when you consider that the typical manufacturer throws a bunch of ingredients into a 50,000 gallon system and everything that goes in, comes out at the end.
FORREST: Furthermore, our syrups are certified organic via MOFGA- Maine Organic Farmers & Gardners Assoc. for the USDA. Becoming certified organic was a huge undertaking that meant revamping our entire record keeping and batch production systems. We really feel that a first-grader should be able to read the ingredient list and understand the content.
EMILY: Plus, they taste really good!
TVFGI: What other uses are there for your syrups other than cocktails?
FORREST: They’re a great all-around pantry item. I use them to make salad dressings and sauces, glazes for meat, fish and vegetables (especially the Three Chile). Cardamom-Clove is a fantastic sweetener for coffee and tea, you can use them as a drizzle for cheese, fruit salad…the list is endless.
EMILY: I use Rose or Raspberry syrup every morning on my yogurt and granola.
TVFGI: Are there any special difficulties associated with distilling natural flavors? Can you describe your process? Where do you find your raw materials?
EMILY: It’s definitely labor-intensive, and because every batch is a little bit different, we have to continually watch and test as we go.
FORREST: We do pH testing, Brix testing (to measure sugar content)…check visually and taste it, obviously. We have to add things at the right time and let them infuse for the right amount of time in order to maximize flavor. We toast and grind our own spices for the Cardamom-Clove syrup, which makes the flavor more intense. Most of our herbs and spices come from Mountain Rose Herbs. Their entire site is certified fair trade and organic, and they carry very high-quality products
TVFGI: Do you have any plans to expand your line beyond the simple syrups?
EMILY: We’d love to branch out- but it’s still in the planning and brainstorming phase
TVFGI: What do you think about the craft cocktail movement? Is it just a fad? What new trends do you see developing in the industry?
EMILY: I think there are aspects that are a fad, but the overall ideas of using quality ingredients and looking back to the classics are here to stay.
TVFGI: What has been the most rewarding aspect and the most daunting challenge about starting this company?
FORREST: It feels good when people tell you they love your product. Obviously!
EMILY: It’s great being your own boss and knowing that all your work is actually going towards YOU; I do miss the steady paycheck and health benefits from my years as a teacher, though!
TVFGI; What are your personal drinks of choice?
EMILY: I’m into the tiki drinks- anything with fresh pineapple juice. And I also love the Tuxedo from the PDT cocktail book.
FORREST: The Sidecar.
You can find Royal Rose products at Williams Sonoma, on their website, and at various other locations (the list is on their site). Just enter a comment below or on facebook to be automatically entered to win a set of their wonderful syrups.
So now for what all this has been leading up to, a drink!— I’m always intrigued when I hear about a recipe that is so unusual I can’t imagine how it will taste. That’s the case with this gorgeous cocktail. Forrest created this signature recipe as a showcase for their unique saffron syrup. It’s shaken up with cognac, dry sherry, lemon juice, and bitters… I can’t wait!
- 1 1/2 oz. cognac
- 3/4 oz. sherry
- 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 oz. Royal Rose Saffron Syrup
- 2 dashes Boker’s Bitters (if you can't find Boker's, Forrest says Angostura will do)
- Add ingredients to a pint glass or shaking tin 1/2 full of ice. Shake vigorously. Serve straight up in a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist.
- What exactly is a dash of bitters and how do you measure it? Some say it’s 1/16th of a teaspoon, some swear it’s 3 drops from an eyedropper, others insist it’s just a good hard shake of the bottle, but I found my favorite answer on one of those online chats on the subject—
“As a rule, I carefully measure my ingredients, but I enjoy the ambiguity inherent in the dash. I welcome the tiny “element of chance” that keeps me from getting too clinical and obsessive with my cocktail assembly.”
This sunny, sophisticated drink lived up to my expectations, or lack thereof, as the case may be :) It’s unlike anything I’ve ever had. It’s a nice strong drink, thanks to the cognac, but with a subtle sweet nectar element with the saffron syrup. The saffron isn’t overwhelming, and you probably couldn’t identify it as such, but it adds a nice complexity to the drink. The fresh lemon is the perfect touch.
Do you use simple syrups in cocktails or in the kitchen? I’d love to hear about more creative ways to use flavored syrups, feel free to link up recipes and posts!