Bootblack Brand, a Rhode Island-based maker of cocktail and soda syrups, released its Traditional Old Fashioned Syrup earlier this year. Its ingredient list sounded promising: aside from the expected water and cane sugar, it also contains dried tart cherries, molasses, orange peel, gentian root, allspice, black peppercorns, clove, cardamom, coffee beans, and star anise.
I tried it in a Old-Fashioned made with two ounces of J.P. Wiser’s Rye and the recommended half ounce of syrup. I forwent bitters, as I expected the syrup’s bitter-friendly ingredient list to fill that role handily.
The syrup gave the drink a sweet, deep, and dark taste that will be recognized by anyone who’s ever opened a can of Moxie (gentian root is also a prime ingredient in the old-timey soda). It was equally sweet and rich in mouthfeel—perhaps a little too much for my own tastes. It made for an Old-Fashioned that was on the sweeter side, but also packed with complex flavor. Tart cherry, sweet molasses, and the Moxie snap of gentian were most pronounced up front, while the anise, coffee, and clove provided a darker second half finished by dry black pepper.
Later I tried it again with the same amount of rye whiskey, but dialed the syrup back to a quarter ounce. It was less sweet, and while the flavors still expressed themselves, they took a back seat to the rye. The too-rich mouthfeel I’d encountered in the first drink was no longer apparent. I had expected to prefer this halved preparation, but I started to miss the full impact of the syrup’s flavor.
I’ll be making Old-Fashioneds with the full half ounce serving going forward, which is a testament to how interesting and gripping the flavors provided by Bootblack’s Old Fashioned Syrup are. Currently, Bootblack is only sold in Rhode Island and Massachusetts stores, but those residing outside the Ocean or Bay states can order it online.
Bootblack Brand Traditional Old Fashioned Syrup costs $16.99-18.99 and comes in a 375 ml bottle.