Flavored syrups play a major role in the beverage service of many operations, showing up in cocktails, smoothies and espresso-style drinks. The flavored syrups segment conjures up images of old-fashioned soda fountains, a snow-cone cart with a selection of sweet pours and of course, traditional Italian sodas—fizzy glasses of seltzer and syrup. But syrup is a broad category, including natural syrups like maple, cane and corn, as well as extracts, concentrates, flavored oils and bar mixes. The granddaddy of fountain drinks is the Egg Cream.
Flavored syrups play a major role in the beverage service of many operations, showing up in cocktails, smoothies and espresso-style drinks. The flavored syrups segment conjures up images of old-fashioned soda fountains, a snow-cone cart with a selection of sweet pours and of course, traditional Italian sodas—fizzy glasses of seltzer and syrup. But syrup is a broad category, including natural syrups like maple, cane and corn, as well as extracts, concentrates, flavored oils and bar mixes.
The granddaddy of fountain drinks is the Egg Cream. Containing neither eggs nor cream, the concoction was reportedly invented by Brooklyn candy-store owner Louis Auster in the 1890s. Most recipes call for Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup, milk and seltzer. Fox has been making its signature syrup for over 100 years.
Another old-timer is Hershey’s, which began selling its famous chocolate syrup to commercial fountains in 1926 and put a consumer version on supermarket shelves two years later. Chocolate syrup’s still a mainstay for Hershey, but its roster now includes Strawberry, Special Dark Chocolate, Chocolate fortified with calcium and the trendy Dulce de Leche.
Vanilla, not chocolate, is the most popular syrup flavor today, according to Stacey Cooper Dent, a Torani spokesperson. The company, which began life as an Italian soda vendor, is over 80 years old. Among its 82 syrups are six variations on that number one favorite, including Traditional Vanilla, French Vanilla and Vanilla Bean. “These choices make it possible for restaurant operators to match the flavor profile exactly to their menu concept,” says Cooper Dent.
Broadline distributors carry branded syrup lines and offer generic products as well. Besides 750-ml glass or plastic bottles, syrup is available in small squeeze bottles, 1-gallon jugs, 3- to 5-gallon bag-in-box, 5-gallon pails and 55-gallon drums.
An Operator Pumps it Up
Describing itself as a “bar scene alternative,” Fountain City Coffee in Columbus, Georgia, is heavy on the syrup. “We display 30-plus bottles on the bar with the labels facing out,” explains manager Josh Dunn, who says customers scan the array of flavors before making a choice. Fountain City orders branded Monin syrups from its distributor; they come in 25.5-oz. bottles that add sleek adornment to the bar.
The menu board invites customers to “try iced tea with flavored syrup” or sip a house-made Italian soda. A regular latte goes for $2.50, but with a dash of syrup it’s 50 cents more; the same deal goes for cappuccinos. For $3.75, customers can order frozen blended espresso drinks in varieties like Mounds, Almond Joy or Mimosa Mocha; for a dollar more, they can get sugar-free versions.
It’s easy for servers to spike the coffees, says Dunn. A pump top on the bottles portions out a calibrated amount of syrup or a dispenser cap measures out the pour. Fountain City continually experiments to come up with unique flavors. “We mixed up chocolate, hazelnut and caramel syrups,” says Dunn. “The result tastes just like a Snickers bar.”
Syrups are an old-time elixir. Many of the top players in flavored syrups have been around for half a century or more, yet they continue to innovate with new flavors and new categories. Pumpkin Spice, Pomegranate, Candied Orange and Spice Berry are new to Monin’s lineup. And you can mix up truer-tasting mocktails with Da Vinci’s new Malibu Rum and Kahlua (nonalcoholic) varieties. For its part, Torani helps you turn drinks into desserts with its new Tiramisu, Cheesecake and Chocolate Biscotti syrups.
As for new categories, Monin offers a Certified Organic line, which, says the company, is not only “environmentally friendly” but uses unprocessed organic cane sugar in its formulation. Currently there are five Certified Organic flavors: Caramel, Chocolate, Vanilla, Raspberry and Hazelnut.
Torani broke new ground this year with the introduction of its Pure Flavor line. These are herb and spice essences with the same viscosity as syrup, but not the sweetness. “It’s a whole new category,” says Torani spokesperson Stacey Cooper Dent. “There’s nothing else out there like it.” Current varieties are Ancho Chile, Basil, Cilantro, Garden Mint, Lemon Verbena and Thai Ginger; they come in a squeeze bottle with a nozzle top.
Designed for use in food and drinks, the most intriguing applications may be in cocktails. To get bar chefs started, Torani offers recipes for a Cilantro Margarita, a Thai Gimlet and a Basil Bellini. “Pure Flavors are for people who really want to push their beverage menu with something different,” says Cooper Dent.