Syrups elevate taste of hot, cold drinks


Valentine's Day is a week away and although my sweetheart and I tend to take a low-key (and slightly lowbrow) approach to the day and simply wish each other "Happy VD!" I do enjoy little things that will make our at-home celebration more special.

So, when Fayetteville-based pink House Alchemy sent me a story suggestion -- with the offer of free product samples -- of pink drinks for V Day, I couldn't resist. Especially when I saw the syrup flavors – Hibiscus Rose and Dark Cherry Grenadine.

I tasted the Hibiscus Rose syrup first, pouring a small dab into a tasting spoon. On its own, it has a delightful flavor -- first a bright sweet-tart hit of hibiscus, then a smooth, subtle wave of floral rose. The balance of hibiscus and rose is right-on perfect without even a hint of the "old-lady soap" scent commonly noted in rose water. Next, I made a cup of Hibiscus Rose Tea using a recipe I found on pH Alchemy's website. The syrup perfectly sweetened the tea and added another aromatic floral layer.

Next, I tried the grenadine.

The first thing I noticed when I opened the Dark Cherry Grenadine and inhaled was the aroma of pomegranate, which was unexpected but should not have been considering the original grenadine was made with pomegranate juice. A taste revealed a richly sweet syrup with a tart finish -- leagues better than the cough-syrup-tasting grenadine you can buy at the grocery store.

Adding a drizzle of either to a glass of sparking wine (or your favorite nonalcoholic bubbly water) creates an instantly festive drink, and is a great way to sweeten up a bottle that is just a touch too dry for your taste.

For more information about Pink House Alchemy, including their full selection of syrups, bitters and shrubs, kits, and recipes, visit pinkhousealchemy.com.

So far I've tried the syrups only in recipes provided by Pink House, but I look forward to experimenting on my own; I think the Hibiscus Rose syrup would be excellent drizzled or brushed over pound cake or whipped into a buttercream for frosting a cake or cupcakes.

Now for the pink drinks ...

For Valentine's Day, Pink House is offering a Gimme Some Sugar cocktail kit ($21), which includes a 16-ounce bottle of pH Hibiscus Rose syrup, 4 dried pineapple flowers and a bag of pH Hibiscus Lavender sugar plus a recipe card.

I re-created the drink using pH Hibiscus Rose syrup and ingredients I had on hand, meaning plain sugar on my glass rim and a garnish of dried rose petals in place of the pineapple flower. Even with these modifications the drink was delicious -- floral, effervescently sweet but with just enough tartness from the lemon to keep it from being cloying.

Gimme some sugar cocktail

pH hibiscus lavender sugar or plain granulated sugar

1½ ounces gin or vodka (I used gin)

½ ounce fresh lemon juice

½ ounce pH Hibiscus Rose syrup

Sparkling rosé

Pineapple flower for garnish

Lightly moisten the rim of a coupe glass or champagne flute with water or lemon juice and then dip rim in sugar.

In a mixing glass, combine the gin or vodka, lemon juice and Hibiscus Rose syrup. Stir well. Strain into prepared glass. Top with sparking rosé and garnish with a pineapple flower.

Makes one drink.

If warm and alcohol-free is more your style, I recommend this hot tea. It lacks the romantic pink color of Gimme Some Sugar, but its flavor is outstanding.

Hibiscus Rose tea

1 bag bergamot tea such as Earl Grey or Lady Grey

8 ounces boiling-hot water

1 ounce (2 tablespoons) Hibiscus Rose syrup

1 cinnamon stick

1 orange slice

Place tea bag in the bottom of a tea cup or mug and pour over the boiling-hot water. Steep tea for three to five minutes. Remove tea bag. Stir in Hibiscus Rose syrup. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and orange slice.

Makes one serving.

Chocolate and coffee lovers may enjoy this one. I frothed and warmed the milk before combining it with the syrups to keep the coffee from cooling too much. I also reduced the chocolate syrup by half to keep it from being too sweet. (As much as I love dessert, I still prefer unsweetened coffee.)

Dark cherry mocha

2 ounces chocolate syrup (I used 1 ounce)

1 ounce pH Dark Cherry Grenadine Syrup

3 ounces whole milk

6-8 ounces your favorite brewed coffee

Stir chocolate, syrup and milk in the bottom of your coffee mug. Top with brewed coffee.

Makes one serving.