East Bayite Launches Lustrous Cocktail-Syrup Line


Image courtesy of Cocktail & Sons

Having grown up in Hayward, Max Messier was working comfortably in the dot-com world "when one day I suddenly realized: This is really dumb. This is not what I want to do."

Motherboards no longer nourished him. Technology was no match for memories of bars and clubs where he'd worked and which his relatives had owned: Messier's dad helmed San Diego's Improv.

"I had the service industry in my blood." 

Sharing good times with live human beings, as he'd witnessed at those clubs and around his grandparents' custom-built at-home wet bar -- "I wanted to get back to that," Messier told Feast Bay while revisiting these parts last week with his wife Lauren Myerscough, a New Orleans native (and supertaster) whom he met while managing bars in Brooklyn and with whom he has now created a quartet of lush, luscious, lustrous syrups. 

They call their brand Cocktail & Sons.

"People think cocktails are this mysterious thing, and it's true that there are very few high-quality solutions that let people make great cocktails at home," Messier mused. 

The four syrups are Spiced Demerara (containing white peppercorn, sichuan peppercorn, coriander, all spice, cassia bark, birch leaf, wild cherry bark, raw sugar and orange peel; goes well with whiskey); Oleo Saccharum (a traditional classic updated with lemongrass, toasted green cardamom and ginger; goes well with gin and vodka); Honeysuckle & Peppercorn (its name tells you what's in it; goes well with gin, vodka, tequila, rum and whiskey); and Mint & Lemon Verbena (ditto; recommended in daiquiris, mojitos and juleps). 

Each satiny-smooth syrup has a rich, complex flavor that evolves over long seconds on the tongue, evoking mysterious festivities and faraway lands. 

Messier had been using flowers, spices and teas as a bar manager for years. Creating these syrups was another big step in that direction.

"We said: Let's figure out what are most popular cocktails out there, then let's make syrups to make those drinks with -- syrups that fit the profiles of specific liquors."

That most-popular list includes the Old Fashioned, the Daiquiri, the Mojito, the Tom Collins, the Margarita and the Gimlet. A small soupçon of syrup and some strong squirts of citrus plus some hard spirit -- you've pretty much got a fully evolved cocktail right there.

As many as possible of the syrups' ingredients come from producers in the New Orleans region, where Messier and Meyerscough now live and where they sell Cocktail & Sons syrups at local farmers' markets.

They're also sold at dozens of stores and bars nationwide. Messier -- who was in the Bay Area introducing his products to proprietors hereabouts -- is a popular speaker and workshop leader at trendy cocktail events such as New Orleans' annual Tale of the Cocktail.

"Our area has such an amazing agriculture industry," Meyerscough beamed. "Making these syrups lets us expose people all over the world to these local products" -- such as honey, Satsumas, and cane sugar grown by an eighth-generation Cajun sugar farmer.

"Five years ago, not every restaurant had a cocktail list. Now every restaurant" -- that is, every one that wants to be noticed, reviewed and hipster-magnetic -- "must have a cocktail list," Messier said. "People love those well-constructed drinks -- and they want to bring that experience home."

With the syrups -- which have cocktail recipes printed right on their labels -- "we're giving them the blueprints for that."

"Entertaining is alive and well in the South," noted Meyerscough, who also uses the syrups in marinades, dressings, coffees, teas, sodas and cake. "And the reason it's alive and well is that people down there are using good ingredients that their guests really appreciate." 

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