Elevate your mocktails with Cane & Herb's simple syrups with an herbaceous twist

Jennifer Chandler
Southern Kitchen

This story is part of Spirits of the South, a tour through some of the best bars and distilleries the South has to offer. We've also created some excellent craft cocktail recipes for you to try at home. See it all here.

Whether doing a reset or abstaining from alcohol for health reasons, you no longer have to feel like you are missing out when it comes to cocktail hour.

Bartenders and mixologists across the South are adding creative mocktails to their menus that rival traditional cocktails.

The secret ingredient? House-made syrups that elevate these “zero-proof” libations to a whole new level. 

The recipe for a simple syrup is pretty basic: equal parts sugar and water cooked just until the sugar dissolves. It’s used to add both sweetness and texture to a drink.

Bartenders have come up with all kinds of variations and additions to the equal-parts-sugar-and-water recipe. This includes adding fruits, herbs, spices and various other ingredients to their syrups to add flavor.

But don’t worry: You don’t have to be a mixologist or have pots of syrup simmering on your stovetop to create bar-worthy drinks at home. 

Memphis, Tennessee-based Cane & Herb has created a line of handcrafted simple syrups to help you create cheers-worthy drinks at home.

Whether you are looking for something floral, bold, fruity or smooth, they have more than 13 flavors of simple syrup to suit your needs. Hibiscus, orange, mint, jalapeno, ginger and even sweet potato are a few of the options.

The idea for Cane & Herb came from a cocktail.

“One day I came home from work, and Lauren said she’d make me a cocktail,” said Rob Williams, who owns Cane & Herb with his wife, Lauren Thompson-Williams.

Lauren said she looked at the rosemary growing on her windowsill and decided to make a simple syrup with it. She added her new creation to a couple shots of gin and handed Rob the glass. After having the first sip, he knew this was something everyone had to try.

“I looked at her and said, ‘This is delicious! How do we make this into a thing?’” Rob said.

That was in summer 2019. Since then the couple has experimented with a variety of herbs and ingredients such as jalapeno and sweet potato as they have grown their line that is available for shipping nationwide. The syrups can be used to flavor non-alcoholic drinks, cocktails, coffee, tea and even make a simple marinade for savory dishes.

From left to right, rosemary infused, hibiscus infused and blackberry infused simple syrup sit on a stand near a Cane & Herb pop up stand at Stock & Belle, 387 South Main Street, on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022, in Memphis, Tenn. Rob Williams and Lauren Thompson-Williams co-own Cane & Herb, a Memphis-based company that creates simple syrups.

Making mocktails at home

Rob and Lauren offered a few tips for making mocktails.

“The first thing you need to do when making a cocktail or mocktail is decide what flavor profile you are looking for," Rob said.

Rob Williams uses a Cane & Herb hibiscus simple syrup to create a hibiscus smash at a Cane & Herb pop up stand at Stock & Belle, 387 South Main Street, on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022, in Memphis, Tenn. Williams and Lauren Thompson-Williams co-own Cane & Herb, a Memphis-based company that creates simple syrups.

For floral flavor profiles, Rob recommends using rose, hibiscus and lavender syrups. For a more bold and earthy flavor, try rosemary, ginger, mint or the autumn spiced syrups. For a more fruit forward taste, try orange and blackberry. And if you want something spicy, he said to try their jalapeno syrup.

The next step in making the perfect mocktail is muddling.

Muddling is the process of taking fresh ingredients, like herbs and fruits, and grinding them by hand. You can muddle any combination of items that would complement your flavor profile well: orange slices, strawberries, mint leaves and lemon are some popular ones.

The last step is bubbles.

That means soda water when making a mocktail. This could be tonic or seltzer depending on how sharp of a bite you are looking for with your mocktail. If you are starting from a muddled base, Rob said to try to avoid soda waters that are too flavorful as they will compete with the rest of your masterful concoction.

For more information about Cane & Herb syrups, visit caneandherb.com.

Jennifer Chandler is the Food & Dining reporter at The Commercial Appeal. She can be reached at jennifer.chandler@commercialappeal.com and you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @cookwjennifer.

Hibiscus Smash

Recipe courtesy of Cane & Herb

Serves 1

Ingredients

Instructions

In a cocktail shaker, place all three ingredients. Shake until well combined. Serve up or over ice.

Blackberry Mock-arita features Cane & Herb simple syrup, lime juice and soda water at a Cane & Herb pop up stand at Stock & Belle, 387 South Main Street, on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022, in Memphis, Tenn. Rob Williams and Lauren Thompson-Williams co-own Cane & Herb, a Memphis-based company that creates simple syrups.

Blackberry Mock-arita

Recipe courtesy of Cane & Herb

Serves 1

Ingredients

Instructions

Muddle the blackberries in your glass of choice. 

In a cocktail shaker, mix the blackberry syrup, lime juice and soda water until well combined. Serve up or over.