Organic syrups add new flavors to cocktails, glazes, sauces and more.
On a recent Monday morning when the wind chill factor was right around zero, I entered the sweet, inviting world of Forrest Butler and Emily Butters, co-founders of Royal Rose Syrups in Brunswick.
When Butler greeted me with his big endearing smile, I immediately felt like family and there was no doubt in my mind that I was in for a real treat. While their staff of three bottled jewel-toned raspberry syrup in the production kitchen, Butler and Butters shared the story of Royal Rose Syrups.
Originally conceived as elevated organic flavorings for high-end cocktails, the company also promotes its syrups as ingredients for almost every conceivable combination of sauces, salad dressings, glazes and more.
As I sampled the raspberry syrup, followed by a spoonful of the subtle rose syrup, I was delighted by the sweet burst of summer on my tongue. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the occasional cocktail and knew I would love pairing these syrups with my favorite spirits or sparkling water. But in those first moments of delicious discovery, visions danced in my head of these elixirs from the gods flavoring cakes and frostings, glazes for vegetables and fruits, and whipped cream and butter.
I couldn’t wait to get back to my own kitchen and start experimenting, but first, I wanted to hear how Royal Rose Syrups came into being.
Butler and Butters had a grand time telling me how they met through mutual friends in Cambridge, and how later Butler lost his job as an architectural designer but then found work teaching bartending by day and tending bar by night while Butters taught school in New York City.
Then, one auspicious evening, serendipity smiled on the two when Butler wanted to filch some leftover syrup from Butters’ home-canned peaches. His intention: to mix the thick, sweet syrup into cocktails for his customers.
As queen of the kitchen, Butters wanted to take that syrup kissed with fresh peaches and make it really worth remembering. She added the unlikely combination of black pepper, basil leaves and vanilla before her sweetie made off with the concoction in a quart jar.
By the end of that night in 2010, as Butler carried the empty Mason jar home from work, he knew they were on to something. What he and Butters didn’t know was that they would be soon starting up their own company and naming it after an old favorite stove in one of Butters’ first apartments. And as fantastical as it seemed, they would be moving to Maine — lock, stock and barrel — getting married and starting a family.
The move north was motivated by Butters, who often summered with her family in the Pine Tree State. Pairing the Maine mystique with the magic potion that is Royal Rose Syrups has turned out to be an inspiration for Butters and Butler as they continue to dream and scheme.
They originally set up shop in Biddeford when they first moved from Brooklyn in 2012, but the couple now call Brunswick their home, with Royal Rose Syrups residing at Fort Andross.
Their 8-ounce syrup bottles, featuring almost a dozen flavors, hold filtered water, organic cane sugar and blends of fruits, peppers, spices and herbs from California and Oregon. The rose petals are grown in India. Each 30-gallon batch yields about 360 bottles of USDA-certified-organic syrup. “This product is as clean and pure as it can possibly be,” Butler stated proudly.
Much of their product is distributed wholesale, for sale or use at stores and bars across the country, in Canada and Australia. Consumers can order online or find the syrups at a number of locations in Maine, including two area stores: Bow Street Market in Freeport and Local Market in Brunswick.
Butters recommended that I try the syrup in my breakfast yogurt, my coffee or my morning smoothie, but I knew I wouldn’t be waiting until morning to open up those enchanting little bottles.
I brought home a box of syrups that included raspberry, rose, ginger-lime, hot ginger-lime, cardamom-clove, orange-vanilla, saffron, strawberry-fennel, jasmine, three chilies and, the biggest seller, lavender-lemon.
Within five minutes, I found myself drizzling raspberry syrup over vanilla ice cream in homage to the first official flavor of the company.
Then I tossed together a kale salad with pomegranate seeds and spiked it with ginger-lime syrup. When I tasted it, there was that lovely flash of summer again.
In a fit of rapture, I poured 1/4 cup of lavender-lemon syrup into a pound cake mix and grated in a teaspoon of lemon rind. As I then stirred together a lavender-lemon glaze for the cake, I felt myself getting dizzy with all the possibilities.
I merrily splashed some ginger-lime syrup into my afternoon tea and flavored the butter with a dash of three chilies syrup before plopping it on steamed vegetables. I just couldn’t help myself . . .
I could go on, but suffice it to say that thanks to Royal Rose Syrups, the taste of summer — in many of its inviting flavors — is in full bloom in my kitchen this winter.
Sweet & spicy Brussels sprouts
2 cups Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 tablespoon grated garlic
1 tablespoon canola or olive oil
Salt, to taste
2-3 tablespoons Royal Rose Three Chiles Syrup
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss vegetables, ginger, garlic, salt and oil together in a mixing bowl and turn onto a baking sheet. Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the Brussels sprouts are beginning to brown and the leaves are getting crisp. Drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of Royal Rose Three Chiles Syrup over the vegetables and return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes. This recipe can also be used for asparagus, squash, carrots or your favorite root vegetable.
Lavender soy slaw dressing
1.5 ounces Royal Rose Lavender-Lemon Syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce or tamari
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
.5 ounce fresh lemon juice
Combine and pour over your favorite slaw ingredients.
Golden brioche French toast
6 slices brioche, bread or panettone, cut 1/2-inch-thick
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons Royal Rose Cardamom-Clove Syrup, or to taste
Whisk eggs, milk and syrup in a shallow baking dish. In a skillet, melt butter over medium high heat. When the skillet is hot, lightly dredge brioche in the egg mixture on both sides. Fry until golden brown. Serve with butter and maple syrup.
Mexican hot chocolate
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon Royal Rose Three Chiles Syrup
Freshly grated cinnamon
Heat milk then whisk in cocoa and Three Chiles Syrup until smooth. Pour into mugs and sprinkle with fresh cinnamon to taste.
2 1/2 ounces white rum
3/4 ounces Royal Rose Raspberry Syrup
3/4 ounces fresh lime juice
Apple cider toddy
1 cup apple cider
3/4 ounces Royal Rose Cardamom-Clove Syrup, or to taste
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Shot of bourbon (optional)
Freshly grated cinnamon
Heat apple cider, syrup and lemon in a small saucepan. Remove from heat. Add bourbon and pour into a mug. Top with cinnamon.
Raspberry sunrise smoothie
1/2 cup frozen raspberries
3/4 cup milk (low-fat, whole, rice, almond, etc.)
2 teaspoons Royal Rose Lavender-Lemon Syrup, or to taste
Combine in a blender.
Royal Rose Syrups
14 Maine St. (in the back of Fort Andross)
Order online: www.royalrosesyrups.com or [email protected]
Available locally at Bow Street Market in Freeport and Local Market in Brunswick