Best known for its starring role in the Hurricane Cocktail, Fassionola Syrup is probably the best syrup you’ve never heard of.
Used widely in Tiki drinks in the 1940s & 1950s, the recipe is commonly believed to be lost.
We talk to Jason Crawley from Crawley’s Simple Syrups about recreating an iconic syrup and how it can be used in cocktails today.
[00:02:17] – Background on Crawley’s
[00:04:34] – If someone is buying Crawley’s, what can they expect?
[00:05:15] – How did the creation of Fassionola come about?
[00:07:06] – How much input did Jacoby’s have in the formula?
[00:08:21] – How faithful were the old recipes?
[00:09:35] – Will you explore other lost syrups?
[00:10:42] – With the Fassionola, what flavour should they expect?
[00:11:33] – So it has an Hawaiian Punch feel?
[00:12:12] – What cocktails can it be used in?
[00:14:39] – So Fassionola is a sweetening agent?
[00:15:22] – So you can use it for drinks other than Tiki?
[00:15:46] – How have Jacoby’s been experimenting with it?
[00:17:40] – What can people easily make with it?
[00:21:54] – Will a little go a long way with Fassionola?
[00:23:15] – What acids work best?
[00:25:01]- When will Fassionola be released?
[00:28:00] – Will it be available internationally?
We are here today with Jason Crawley from Crawley’s Simple Syrup Company to talk about the new cocktail syrup that the company are about to release and from what we understand if you are into tiki you are in for quite a treat.
Great to be here.
So you have created one of tiki’s lost ingredients, exactly what Fassionola is and how do you pronounce it?
I don’t think anybody really knows what it is, how to pronounce it or even what it was. It seems to be a bit of a myth but it used to exist many, many years ago and it’s kind of one of those flavours that was lost over time as so many others were but this one has kind of got a groovy name, it kind of popped up in lots of famous tiki drinks back in the day but in a nutshell it’s a very tropical kind of flavour. It used to exist many years ago and their leading flavours back then its rumoured were more of a passionfruit kind of lead with some spiciness in the background like guava, apple and maybe even a bit of rose. So we have had a good look around and all our research and tried to pull all the mythical flavours of Fassionola together and had a proper stab at it. So no one has really tasted it because it went by the wayside years ago so we have basically had a go at recreating it to the best of our ability. It’s pretty exciting.
Could you give us some background about Crawley’s?
We have been in the market for ten years, we started in Bronte, brought a metric tonne of Brazilian mountain sugar and had it delivered to my front garden, much to the dismay of my neighbours. I had this mound in the front garden and I think the neighbours thought I was making drugs because it was brown bags coming in and brown cases going out. But I guess the vision at the time was we looked at the market and all there was were artificially kind of flavoured syrups, nothing really premium, nothing that really spoke to the bartender, nothing incredibly compelling. So we had a go at trying to be the world’s best syrup provider, purveyors of the world’s finest syrups essentially which was quite ambitious at the time but once people started to taste them and doing markets and starting from a very small base the phone started ringing from some of the leading bars around the country; Merivale etc and said this is a really great solution for us, we wanted something really premium that talks to bartenders, that comes from a bartender so we know that the product is good and it will be consistent and it kind of looks beautiful rather than having old rum bottles with bicycle tape round them and barflies everywhere so we just kind of set up ourselves to become that premium reference to what bartenders need with good quality staple flavours. Good quality grenadine, brilliant orgeat and have expanded the range through all the classic flavours as we have learnt a lot in this space and now we are at Fassionola which is on the back of real Falernum last year which was a big undertaking as well, just to try and create these syrups to become stable with real flavours. Because I am not a scientist, it was really a suck it and see kind of stuff but it seems to be working. No one has gotten killed and we are still in the business so we are essentially trying to become the purveyors of really good quality syrups for bartenders, more pointing at the trade but also for people that enjoy a really great drink at home knowing that the liquid in the bottle is as good as it can be, if not better than you can make yourself.
If someone is buying Crawley’s Syrup what can they expect?
Quality rich flavours that are all natural, they are all hand made. I guess the world has gone mad for craft, I guess we have always been craft, it’s just all made in the countryside in a big copper kettle in the NSW countryside so in a nutshell the key point of difference for our brands is it’s all natural which means the flavours are much richer and made their presence known but play a really great supporting role in cocktails. They are not the leading light but they are just really well balanced and they have like a nice long finish to them. It’s just a really good quality product that basically does what it says on the label.
How did the creation of Fassionola come about?
I had no idea of its existence. I popped into drop off some Frisbees and t-shirts to a friend of mine at Jacoby’s bar in Enmore which is one of Sydney’s leading tiki bars, a really great bunch of people there and I sat down to my Red Stripe Beer which is what I usually drink in a tiki bar and the owner said have you heard of Fassionola? I said I had never heard of the guy, thinking it was something else. And he went no the syrup and I said what is that. He emailed me a whole bunch of old pamphlets he had come across in his tiki world and as we got further into it we thought this thing should exist again. I do have a passion for recreating all things like the Imperial shaker machine; I think some things just need to come back. Once I looked at some of their recipes for old Fassionola’s, there are quite a few old recipes knocking around, it was kind of one of those flavours that had (a) a fun name (b) needed to come back because it kind of legitimises some of the old classic drinks again. So I guess the main one that everyone would have heard about would be the Hurricane so this is a drink that sadly now is not made very often. Its home at Pat O’Brien’s in New Orleans, one of the best bars in town and one of the most fun bars where they have Julien pianos and everyone sings along and drinks very bad Hurricanes because of course they don’t use Fassionola anymore, it’s just a crap grenadine and some house rum served on crushed ice with some cordials in there. So it’s not necessarily the best drink in the world but Fassionola back again could get people drinking Hurricanes correctly again or to the best they could be.
You mentioned that Jacoby’s had sent you some pamphlets, how much other input did Jacoby’s have in the formulation?
We went way, I guess on a limb again really and we came back with six different liquids and Jacoby’s blind tasted them for us. We just said well to your mind as a man in tiki world every day, and he had had a go also of making his own and had done a few but he didn’t think he had nailed it at all, I guess from 10 years in making syrups constantly we have got a bit more learning so we had our go at it. Jacoby’s chose the one that they like the most and we went with that one. In a nutshell they didn’t kind of put together the DNA of the liquid it was more just like asking tiki gods what they think would be the best one for people immersed in that world day to day and that is the one we went with.
From what I understand it was Don Beach’s recipe, now he took the original one to his grave I believe
Yes with lots of other things as well
So how different are the various old recipes that you have managed to find, do you think any of them really hit the nail?
Yes some of them, unfortunately, were non-commercial so all those kind of tiki wars back in the day in the 40s and 50s it was all house secrets, to a point that they took a lot of them to the grave. Even the rums were put into different vessels as well and blended inhouse so no one really knows to our knowledge anyway what was actually going on in that space. However, the recipes that are written down, some of them are very guava heavy, very cherry heavy, that kind of thing but some of the flavours sadly are not commercially stable so just some things will not store that well. So we always have to err on the side of caution to make flavours that are brilliant in drinks but also can last on a shelf for 3-6 months if they are not used that often. So we tried to stay as close as we could to the various recipes that we could and again through the funnel of creativity we ended up with Jacoby’s sign off on what they thought was the best one out of the bunch.
There are other lost syrups such as Don Beach’s gardenia mix for example, are these things that you will be exploring more
I guess the Crawley’s brand we are always trying to extend things into the trade that make sense. We resisted making a Falernum for many years to be honest because we just didn’t think the appetite would be there. You know how often are people going to rely on that but as the industry has grown and we have got more and more small bars, more and more people becoming more skilled at putting good quality drinks together, a bit more of a passion for history and those sorts of things the demand kind of started to become a reality for us so we put the Falernum into the market and as we have learnt through that it has become a really good product for us based on the quality of it and the high level of ginger that is in there. So I guess anything that starts to make commercial sense for us we would certainly have a look at all of it. So what as that, a gardenia mix, we are open to all of those sorts of things. We are a very small agile business so yes we can have a play around in those spaces very quickly if it starts to make sense and the liquids are shelf stable.
Now people are buying a bottle of Fassionola, what sort of flavours can they expect?
We have put a whole bunch of different flavours in there, the lead flavour that you will pick out straight away will be passionfruit. So the poor people down in the factory in the countryside were actually using fresh passionfruit and separating the seeds and so it is a real process to pull it together. And of course cost as well but that is for me to worry about. From a flavour perspective, there is guava in there, apple, pineapple, cherry and rose water so it’s all really tropical, I guess guava and passionfruit.
So it has a kind of Hawaiian punch feel to it almost?
100%, it’s a real tropical mix and that nice little rose water tinge in the background. I think the best way to think about it is it’s kind of like a passionfruit grenadine of sorts where you have got those nice robust cherry, raspberry kind of flavours and pomegranate which is another thing I forgot to mention, it’s kind of like a spicy grenadine and what the guys at Jacoby’s have done is they have some Fassionola there from the samples we made and their ambition is to replace grenadine with Fassionola with everything because the flavour is so wonderful.
If people are using it at home, you talked about the Hurricane, what other cocktailscanthye make?
We have found a whole bunch of them, the PE which is like a poor man’s Pina colada of sorts, there is one called the Cobra’s Fang which is really great.
Some of the classic drinks that Fassionola pops up in is, of course, the Hurricane, which the original one is essentially a daiquiri with rum, a bit of citrus and the Fassionola essentially served tall on crushed ice. Again there is so much conjecture with tiki, there is a Zombie of course which is one of my favourite rum punches. A lot of these things essentially in tiki world are all essentially a diluted form of punch of sorts, something strong which is usually rum, a modifier with some sort of citrus, of course a mix of citruses that can be orange, guava, pineapple, lemon, lime, grapefruit of course and of course a sweetening agent and a variety of bitters so all these things are just of kind of the same thing. So what I would say from using Fassionola perspective is find your best flavour of rum that you like, be it spice, dark, flavoured, white or amber, find your favourite citrus style that you prefer, whether that’s passionfruit or pineapple juice or lemon and lime or indeed all of the above and then of course a sweetening agent which is the Fassionola itself. Just kind of have a formula to put those together, so a classic formula for any kind of sour would be to use 3 parts of anything strong which would be your rum, when I say parts in bars that would be 15mls per part so 45mls of rum or 60 if you like it strong; 2 parts of sour which would be 30mls of lemon, lime or passionfruit or whatever you want to use and of course one part of sweet, so a 3,2 1 formula will always balance and that will help you make a nice well-balanced drink at home. That can either be shaken, blended or stirred if you don’t have the equipment and that will always get you across the line.
A Cobra’s Fang essentially is a reworked Zombie with more rum, different types of citrus and the Fassionola again. Tiki follows its only course with just tweaking, it’s a little bit like a shortcrust pastry, you know how much butter and flour you want in it dictates how crumbly it is, it is just how strong or citrus you would like it to be. They are all essentially a diluted form of rum punch or an evolved form of rum punch.
So people can use Fassionola like a sugar syrup?
Exactly the same, it’s a sweetening agent with tropical flavours. And it’s not just for rum either, it will taste wonderful and great with gin, with tequila, American whiskey, all of these things it will work with. It is just a really nice tropical sweetening agent. We have actually done a classical drink called The Blinker which popped up in Duffy’s book in the 30’s and he used American rye whiskey with lemon and Fassionola and that is what we are going to be serving at the launch party at the end of the month. So it goes not just with rum but with any kind of spirit that you like.
So you can actually take it outside of the tiki realm?
Yes, 100% and that’s the ambition for it really, it’s not just to become a tiki world flavour. It’s kind of like having a really cool tropical mix that will mix with anything that you like. It is open to anything you enjoy, even if it is Geneva(?) you can stick it in there and it will do a really good job in there too.
I imagine the bartenders at Jacoby’s have been experimenting quite a bit, do you know of any cocktails that they have come up with that are original?
I don’t actually. They only had about 300mls of the original liquid that we have made so there is not a great deal of it around. What we have done though is to come up with our versions of The Hurricane, which based on the liquid at hand is what we will put together. So we have done a really cool Hurricane mix which is again a reworking of citrus and some rums and the Fassionola in there and a little bit more on the passionfruit kind of vibe and again The Blinker I mentioned with American rye whiskey and they are the two drinks we have started with. But as I said the liquid hasn’t been produced commercially yet so we are waiting a few more weeks until the labels arrive and then we can go into full swing and once we have lots of liquid laying around then we can start having a play around with it. I know Pasan’s ambition is to have it crossbreed with his two venues; he has got Jacoby’s in Enmore and then a bit further up into Newtown he has Earl’s Juke Joint which is a little bit more of obviously the name dictates a bit more of an American whiskey-focused, albeit not all American whiskey and he is kind of throwing it around there. I think he wants to get it alongside his ryes and American bourbon so it will cross pollinate nicely in those two spaces. But as for signature services that are on the menu it is still not launched so it is quite an exciting time, so nothing has been done other than The Hurricane and The Blinker at current press.
If someone is bringing it home for the first time and they are experimenting, is there something simple that people could do to get a sense of the flavour and where it can work?
When people start to experiment at home it’s always good to start to think about this notion of balance so when we used to train bartenders many years ago the first thing we would do is help them to learn how to make a really good lemonade. So it was all about finding the balance between something really citrus and something really sweet and then what that kind of weakening agent is, whether that is soda water, cider, beer or whatever that is. So you start them towards the Tom Collins vibe so what I am erring to there is drinks formulas you can’t really get away from them. Your listeners would take great comfort knowing there are only 7 drinks recipes in the world, there are just 7 and you can’t get away from them. It’s a little bit like sauces on salads, there are only 5 sauces for salads or should I say dressings not sauces. So there are only 5. We launched an Imperial device in Abu Dhabi last year and I was talking to the chef about flavours while we were having a big old steak and he was amazed to hear that there were only drinks formulas in the world and he said that was interesting because there are actually only 5 salad dressings in the world and he said you can’t get away from them and he took great delight telling me what his were and I took great delight in telling him what mine were. So for the listeners take great comfort in this because there are a million cocktail books out there but as you start to look into the DNA of what they are all actually, they are all really similar. If you look at something like a margarita at the side of a daiquiri it is essentially tequila, lime juice and agave and if you look at a daiquiri its rum, lime juice and simple syrup or powdered sugar depending on how you make it and they are exactly the same. So they are just again punch without soda water and spices so they are just a diluted form of punch again. So punch is the great grandfather of all mixed drinks and they kind of over 2-300 years broke apart into drinks families so we have things like highballs, which for people at home if you are starting with Fashionola you could just stick a splash of rum into a highball glass, again 3 parts if you are going to follow a formula, a squeeze of lemon or lime with your hands or a little wedge and a little teaspoon of Fashionola syrup and top it up with soda it will taste fantastic. And that is what essentially we would call a Collins in the trade and of course a classic Tom Collins would be gin, lemon, sugar, soda water. And again if you try to breath some clarity in this space if you look at what a mojito is it is a Tom Collins made with rum and with the addition of mint. And if you shake a mojito with gin it is a Southside. It’s all the same. So take great comfort in this as that is how professional bartenders work they just stick to the same formulas and the drink will always balance and it’s just how well your skills are to put it together really, but it’s certainly not in any way difficult. Anyone can make a cup of tea, it’s just how complicated you want it to be. Do you warm your cup before you put your teabag in, do you want Lap San, Earl Grey, Black or Russian Caravan, how long do you leave the leaf in, or milk you don’t, I do, it’s kind of a formula and how complicated you want to make it.
So if you are going to buy Fashionola to make drinks at home, buy a decent bottle of rum, get some good citrus in there and use 3, 2, 1 as a formula and you will either shake that or build it over ice in a highball glass and give it a good old stir with whatever you have to stir and it will taste fantastic.
Is Fashionola one of those ingredients that a little goes a long way, do people need to be a little careful about how much they adding?
It is pretty intense. The passionfruit is a striker off the bench really, it really powers through but I don’t think you need to hold back with it because it is such a groovy flavour you want it to sing out in the drink and often with tiki drinks a lot of them call for dark rum and you have to battle with dark rum a little bit because it is such an all-encompassing molassey kind of flavour and some tiki recipes call for a fair bit of OP rum as well so you need a syrup that will kind of fight fire with fire, that is why you find ginger ale in a lot of whiskey drinks because it needs something to find that balance with the spices. So I wouldn’t necessarily think you need to hold back with it, on the contrary, it will help you find good rich tropical flavours in a whole bunch of dark spirit drinks essentially. It is business as usual really from a syrup perspective, it’s just a groovier flavour that people will really enjoy.
With the acids are you looking solely at lime or can lemon work well?
It works well with most really. The ones we have put together it was more of a costing exercise really because obviously we have got a launch party coming up with what we believe will be a couple of hundred people and a marching band down the street in New Orleans style so we tried it with both lemon and lime and we went with the lemony one due to the fact that we have to give 600 drinks away, not to be tight but the limes are a dollar apiece at the best of times so we love lime but we found it worked really well with both to be fair and it was really nice to find out that it worked really well with pink grapefruit with some of the drinks that we are putting together. And again with my experience in bars and trying to build brands and being immersed in the market, Australians aren’t in love with the grapefruit yet in a massive way like cherry cola. Cherry cola in Western Europe and America is quite a big flavour but Australia didn’t seem too in love with grapefruit yet. Obviously there are people who do like it but in the main it is not a massive flavour for people which is a terrible shame to their detriment because grapefruit is such an awesome flavour. Be it golden or pink it is such a great acid. Salty Dog which is just vodka and golden grapefruit juice with a salt rim on it is one of the most refreshing drinks you will ever taste with a splash of soda in it as well. So ultimately it will work well with any acid because it is just a nice, rich tropical kind of flavour that will play nice with anything.
So the launch party later in the month, when will Fassionola be released?
I have to start working on that party. We are hoping it will be released on the same day with some luck. There are a few logistical issues with production and printing and getting it into the vanguard business and onto shelves ready to be ordered and all the online stuff. But it should be out in the world by the end of the month, we are hoping before July but I can’t give you a firm date, but the best way to get it is through Vanguard Luxury Brands. You can order it directly through there if you are a bar owner and if you want a bottle from a consumer perspective just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you some out. The party is looking like it is going to be a whole bunch of fun. The Jacoby boys are pulling out all the stops: long straws, eyeballs and all sorts of things are going to be flying around. There will be a few formalities but the key thing we are really excited about is that we are going to try and recreate the Julian pianos in El’s which is a really great thing if you are ever lucky enough to get to New Orleans. Pat O’Brien’s is the home of The Hurricane of course and of course New Orleans is pretty much home to every drink that was ever created which is why it is the coolest city in the world but Pat O’Brien’s is a really have to go to bar if you are ever in the old French quarter and in a nutshell they have these two incredible grand pianos back to back and they divide the room into two halves verbally and you have to out sing each other and once you have a few Hurricanes it is a wonderful thing. I used to work down in Baton Rouge many years ago and I used to go to New Orleans quite a lot as I was working in the area and I was really lucky to see Cab Calloway in there one night and he was playing the try and he puts these silver tips on his fingers and puts his hand underneath the silver tray and taps out a tune with his hands along to the piano and people donate money to charity and load up his tray. But to see the singer of Minnie the Moocher dancing around in that bar is something I’ll be thinking about when we launch. We don’t think we will be able to recreate Pat O’Brien’s pursée, certainly not in any way a pop up, it might just be two electronic pianos but ultimately it should be a really good night and hopefully everybody will get to taste this great syrup that’s kind of back from the dead from the City of Voodoo and it should be a whole bunch of fun.
For consumers I assume Vanguard will put it through Dan Murphys?
Yes, I think Dan Murphys have an online component.
And what are your plans in terms of international?
We are in 6 different countries now so we are hoping to get into the UK and the US next year or later this year if things go well. But we are available throughout the Asia Pacific region and New Zealand and of course here in Australia and throughout China.