House-made Syrups Help Bars Stand Out

Raven

House-made bar ingredients have become almost standard at cocktail-centric operations these days - without a least a few bitters, tinctures, syrups or preserves, it seems, a drink will find it hard to make a splash.

Raven & Rose in Portland, Oregon, is also LEED certified - LEED, or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices. Among the self-imposed regulations, the operators decided to eliminate artificial flavoring and sweeteners from its cocktails program by creating a range of house-made syrups, including one using rose geranium from the owner's plants.

Raven & Rose bar director, Dave Shenaut, makes about a dozen concoctions on a regular basis - Demerara, Brown, Muscovado, rose geranium, honey, agave, cane, rhubarb, ginger, pineapple, orgeat, seasonal fruit syrups and oleo saccharum, a blend of citrus peels, sugar and herb tea.

Lisa Mygrant, owner and culinary director of Raven & Rose, calls the rose geranium syrup a pet project. 

"Rose geranium (aka "scented geranium" or "sweet geranium") is a very old fashioned and mostly forgotten herb whose leaves impart a strong flavor and aroma almost identical to that of the Damask rose. I first learned of it as a child while reading through Lindsay Shere's "Chez Panisse Desserts" cookbook, which remains one of my favorite cookbooks to this day. However, I never actually came into contact with the herb until I was in cooking school at Ballymaloe in Ireland, where it is one of Darina Allen's very favorite herbs.”

She grows the geranium at home because it's easy and hard to source commercially, she’s found. Although relying on home production can be tricky - her geese recently ate most of her stash.

Raven & Rose uses this syrup in their White Rose cocktail, but like many other syrups made specifically for the bar, it has many applications, including in lemonade or other alcohol-free drinks.

Cocktail bars are frequently called out for their geekery, but there’s nothing simpler than making syrups that serve the purposes of a cocktail program - if you can boil water, you can make a syrup. Consistency and supply are important to control, but once it’s part of a bar’s routine, the opportunities to create and expand are endless, really. For me, a rose geranium and seltzer sounds like a perfect adult alcohol free option, for instance, something most bars overlook. With your own syrups, that’s no longer a problem.