Forrest Butler and Emily Butters are taking aim at the cocktail industry with an arsenal of jewel-toned syrups. From their commercial kitchen in Biddeford, Maine, the husband and wife team behind Royal Rose Syrups craft organic, small-batch simple syrups that capture flavors from all over the world. Tamarind summons Puerto Rico in a nod to its piraguas (shaved ice). Lavender-lemon stirs up summers in the French Riviera, and raspberry, when coupled with gin, lemon juice and egg white (a classic “Clover Club”), smacks of pre-prohibition America.
“Many of our syrup flavors were directly inspired by other places and cultures,” Emily said. “Traveling to Colombia expanded my horizons in terms of tastes and flavor profiles. There is a lot of delicious fruit there, and I would literally walk the streets in Cartagena looking for ‘jugos naturales’—fresh fruit juices—that I hadn’t yet tried.”
The couple traversed South America eating, drinking, and discovering. Street vendors toting carts of ice and fruit juices to mix with water and milk introduced them to regional tastes. In Carguá, Emily sampled tamarind, which she would later find again on the streets of Puerto Rico and New York. (A tart tamarind syrup is a now a mainstay in Royal Rose’s collection). Domestically, Maine blueberries have sparked talk of a future flavor (the couple handed out jars of it as wedding favors), and Emily combs through old cocktail recipes at the antique bookseller Rabelais, in Biddeford, for ideas.
The syrups reflect the influence of places both home and abroad as much in the spirit of community as in the essence of the flavors on the labels. Brooklyn, where Emily and Forrest started their business, played an inherent part in bringing the syrups to fruition; it was here that the craft cocktail movement inspired Forrest to tinker with gourmet concoctions to complement the drinks he made as a bartender, and here that Emily, after a day of putting up peaches in 2010, added pepper, vanilla bean and basil to a peach juice Forrest was creating to take to a bar in Bushwick that night. When the mixture disappeared before last call, Forrest and Emily quit their day jobs.
“A lightbulb went off,” Forrest said, and within two years they moved the operation to Maine for its space and natural, East Coast charm (Emily is from Massachusetts).
Though the two hope to travel again soon, they’re expecting their first child, so for now they’re staying put. No matter where they go, they hope their syrups evoke happiness.
“We want to raise the bar for cocktails. We want people to eat and drink well.”
Buy their syrups online, or see where to pick them up locally on their website. They’ve also created these travel-inspired recipes just for us, to cure your wanderlust when you’re stuck at home:
FRANCE: Summer Haven
1oz. Small’s gin
.5oz. Lillet blanc
.5oz. Royal Rose Lavender-Lemon syrup
.5oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
Splash of Champagne
Shake, serve up. Garnish with a lemon twist.
BERMUDA: North Dam Swizzle
2 oz Fresh Pineapple Juice
3/4 oz Snap
3/4 oz Dark Rum
1/2 oz Royal Rose Cardamom-Clove Syrup
1/2 oz Royal Rose Tamarind Syrup
3/4 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
Garnish with mint leaves. Serve in a tall glass on the rocks.
MOROCCO: Rose of the Desert
1 1/4 oz. Courvoisier
1/2 oz. Laird’s Applejack
1/4 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
1/4 oz. Royal Rose Rose Syrup
1/4 oz. Royal Rose Cardamom-Clove Syrup
8 drops Moroccan Bitters by the Bitter End
Shake and serve up.
MEXICO: Mexican Marauder
2 oz. Chinaco Reposado Tequila
1/2 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 oz. Royal Rose Three Chiles Syrup
1/3 dropper-full Bittermen Burlesque bitters
1/3 dropper-full Bittercube Jamaican #1 bitters
Shake and serve on the rocks with a smoked paprika rim.
Photo courtesy of Vicky Wasick