Hot stuff: Monin spicy syrups

Well, looka what the postman brought:  Monin’s line of spiced syrups.  I had a great time experimenting with the Habanero Lime flavor over the weekend, which is why you don’t see it in the photo below, dashing it into 7-up, tequila, and whatever else I had on hand. I’m excited about this product line, with good reason.

Spicy Chocolate, Spicy Red Cinnamon, Spicy Mango, Chipotle Pineapple syrups.

Let me tell you a syrup story. Maybe a year ago, after the book manuscript was safely turned in to my editor but long before the publication date, I hit upon the brilliant idea of marketing a line of Spice & Ice-branded syrups and glass rimmers. Great idea, right? I got busy with all the due diligence:  I signed up for a seminar with the NASFT (the same folks who bring us the Fancy Food show); I found a commercial kitchen in Brooklyn willing to let me use their space; I ordered dozens of tiny food-grade squeeze bottles to share with a few selected bartenders; I cranked out a marketing plan.

But wait — one key piece of the puzzle still was missing.

The product.

Here’s the problem:  I have lots of great simple syrup recipes, but they’re good for a couple of weeks, and that’s it. In order to sell a product, it has to keep long enough to survive distribution, maybe sitting in trucks or warehouses or on shelves for months and months. Even refrigerated products require some longetivity.

I spent several weekends brewing up syrups I really liked – Habanero Orange! Jalapeno Mint! Clove & Cinnamon! – and then I’d decant them into squeeze bottles, cap ’em up, and sit them on a shelf to see how long a shelf life I might claim. Each time, it was about 2 weeks, and then a thin scum of black mold would grow. So very appetizing! So I’d toss out the bottle and start over again. I pestered a lot of very nice people with questions, who generously shared advice:  Use a greater sugar-to-water ratio, since sugar is a preservative. Purchase preservatives to extend shelf life (I had my heart set on creating an organic product, so that ruled out most preservatives). Find a better way to seal air out of the bottles.

Equally troubling: sulfur. I wanted to work with fresh peppers, which work great in freshly-made syrups but don’t age well. They begin to exude a horrible, knock-you-over-backwards, sulphuric stink after about 3 weeks.

So we stamp Kara’s Great Entrepreneurial Syrup Adventure with a big, fat, red FAIL.  (Anyone want to buy a box of 2 dozen tiny food-grade plastic bottles?)

If you’re still reading, you understand one reason I’m psyched about the Monin line:  they pulled off what I could not. I was sure this would be a high-fructose extravaganza, but no, they’re all made with cane sugar, and only the fruit-flavored syrups include potassium sorbate, a relatively innocuous preservative. But maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on myself:  I insisted on using fresh peppers and spices, where Monin subs in “natural pepper flavor,” “natural cinnamon flavor,” etc. I’m not entirely sure what goes into that, or how “natural” it actually may be.

In terms of taste, I was pleased. There’s a good balance of sweet and heat, with just a pleasant peppery tingle and no harshness in the throat or unpleasantly overt ersatz aftertaste. Nothing is the same as making it yourself, but I consider these syrups a perfectly acceptable substitute, and they get a rare recommendation from me. Bravo to Monin for making the product that I could not.

6 thoughts on “Hot stuff: Monin spicy syrups

  1. “Each time, it was about 2 weeks, and then a thin scum of black mold would grow.”

    Was it on the bottom? Often this is just sediment from what goes into the syrup. If you filter it, it takes a while for it to settle down. Most of the mold that will get my syrups is white and floats at the top.

    I also just make 1:1 syrups and bolster the anti-microbial part with an ounce of vodka per pint (obviously not an option if you are serving it to non-drinkers).

    • Hi Frederic!

      The lovely black mold was on the top, and kind of clinging to the wall of the bottle too. I went as high as 2:1 sugar to water ratio, and it still didn’t keep any longer than 3 weeks.

      That’s a good idea about adding vodka to make it keep longer. I might try that with a syrup for my own use. I didn’t consider that an option if I was planning to market it; once alcohol enters the mix there’s a whole other bunch of regulatory hoops to jump through. But for personal use, it might just do the trick!

      What kind of syrups do you make?

      • Grenadine, simple, gomme, marshmallow (Jerry Thomas’ recipe), raspberry, 5-spice, cinnamon, ginger, lavender. I also have a pair of berry shrubs that I made over the summer.

        A lot of times when the recipe calls for something, I will make it fresh. Like tea, cardamom, and other syrups. With the tea, it gives me a lot of flexibility instead of making a lot of each type of tea (I have done green, black, Lapsang, WuWei, Oolong, and others) plus it’s not wasteful and I don’t need to store tons of syrups. But not as wasteful as having tons of spirit infusions.

    • It wasn’t all that strong of a flavor. It might have had a gomme like smoothness. I decided to make the syrup from the Thomas recipe after my botanical supplier sent me the wrong package by mistake (he didn’t want it back). I used in Old Fashioned cocktails and the like or anywhere else simple would be used.

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