Mary Poppins knew a thing or two about cocktails. She might not’ve been explicit about it, but the carpet bag-sporting supernanny made a whole song and dance out of one small ‘fact’: a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.
Sugar is a key component in cocktails and it has been helping the medicine go down for at least 208 years – most likely a lot longer.
One of the first definitions of the word ‘cocktail’ appeared in 1806 in a New York publication called The Balance, and Columbian Repository.
The editor of the magazine had used the word before to describe a list of losses incurred by the loser in a political election. The following week, a reader asked for a definition and the editor wrote this description – adding in his own little pop at the political system: “Cock tail, then is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters, it is vulgarly called a bittered sling, and is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion inasmuch as it renders the heart stout and bold, at the same time that it fuddles the head. It is said also, to be of great use to a democratic candidate: because, a person having swallowed a glass of it, is ready to swallow any thing else.”
So sugar has a very definite place in cocktail history and down the centuries various entrepreneurs have manipulated, enhanced and evolved sugar syrup to make it relevant to today’s cocktail culture – which is a broad and colourful one. Here we take a look at three major brands and three bars in different countries.
Colour, flavour and sweetness preference is different all over the world and Giffard international marketing manager Sophie Godefroy says trends for specific cocktails also drive consumption of specific syrup flavours. “The trend for the Hugo cocktail [Prosecco, sparkling water and elderflower syrup] in Germany boosted the sales of the Elderflower syrup,” she says.
“The Cucumber syrup was also very successful this year in central and eastern Europe (including Czech Republic) thanks to the trendy Cucumber Lemonade [gin, cucumber syrup and lemonade].
“Appearance and colour are important in Asia – that is why our syrups with an intense colour are successful.” Giffard has 67 flavours and is set to reveal more during 2014.
Finest Call is also gearing up for new releases and, from April 2014, a new syrup product brand will be available to mixologists and chefs worldwide.
Building on the Coco Re’al Cream of Coconut brand, the company is set to launch a line-up called Re’al Cocktail Ingredients Fruit Infused Syrups.
These products are “40% or more fruit and juice”, according to Finest Call, and the company is to include popular fruit flavours such as Mango, Strawberry, Peach and Raspberry. Additional flavours will include pure Agave Syrup, Wild Ginger and Pumpkin Spice.