Keeping the Cocktail Revolution Going, One Drink at a Time: An Interview With Max Messier of Cocktail & Sons

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Originally from San Francisco, Max Messier has done time behind the bar in a variety of spots in New York, New Orleans, and beyond. During that time, he developed a recipe book full of syrups and other ingredients that he’d use to create custom cocktails and blow the minds of his patrons. Recently, he decided to make a go of it and start selling these syrups. Cocktail & Sons was born and with it, the chance to keep the cocktail revolution, which all of us have been privy to, going. We sat down with Max to talk about his syrups and how they fit in to the home bar and more.

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How did you get started with Cocktail & Sons?

This is a whole series of recipes that I worked up over years as a bartender, wanting to pair certain syrups with certain spirits and certain cocktails. When I was between gigs, my wife and I looked around the market place and discovered a lot of enhancers—basic simple syrups like lavender and vanilla, there are RTDs—ready to drinks like Jose Cuervo margarita mixes and there’s been a rise in components syrups which have been dominated by tonics and grenadines in the past couple years. We’ve seen a rise in orgeat syrups as well, but we found there was a void in the marketplace for intensives, for syrups that are built for specific classic cocktails. I went to my recipe book and decided to focus on four classic drinks and work our syrups to fit those classic drinks. We chose the Old Fashioned, Tom Collins, Margarita, and Mojito.

What syrups did you come up with then?

I found a spiced demerara, that I’ve been using for old fashioneds for a while. There’s an oleo saccharum, which is a process that bartenders used back in the day to make punches. In their books, David Wondrich and Jimmy Morgenthaler both talk about the process of oleo saccharum. I love dried flowers, so we started doing a honeysuckle and peppercorn syrup, which I had been doing years ago in Brooklyn. We decided to pair it directly with mezcal and tequila. Finally, we have a mint syrup. Mint syrups are all around and they’re all simple. We took a more interesting take on it by adding verbena and wormwood.

You used Kickstarter to raise capital for Cocktail & Sons. How’d that go?

We learned a great lesson from Kickstarter—never launch during the holidays. But we launched on November 1st and hammered everyone we knew. We got a piece in Food & Wine’s online portal, FWx and a friend of mine wrote about the Kickstarter on their blog and we raised the money.

Where do these syrups fit in for someone who may not know anything about mixing, but really likes to drink?

Our tag line is “Complex Syrups for Simple Drinks” and the idea is that we emphasize good booze, fresh citrus, good bitters, and our syrup. My wife and I are huge advocates of the home bar, of returning people back to what my grandparents did in the fifties and sixties and I feel that’s how we’re going to keep this cocktail revolution going.

What are you going to work on next?

We’re going to be launching seasonal syrups, which will most likely be component or enhancer syrups. They’ll be based on Louisiana culture and produce. The strawberries and the honey are great down here, so we’ve already got some things in the works.

Cocktail & Sons syrups are available in select stores, but you can also now buy Cocktail & Sons syrups online at their store.