These Cocktails Are Sweet, Not Simple

There’s nothing simpleton about Kari Morris’s simple syrups.

There’s nothing simpleton about Kari Morris’s simple syrups.

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If you’d asked Kari Morris, when she was growing up in beautiful chilled-out Sonoma and dreaming of becoming an artist, if the picture she’d paint of her future would include packing up her brushes, moving to über-urban Williamsburg and becoming a syrup-making impresario, she might have asked you if you’d been sniffing paint thinner. But Morris, now 32, has found her medium in sugar and spice instead of brushes and paint.

There’s nothing simpleton about Morris’s simple syrups—Morris Kitchen’s low-fi-sleek bottles belie the intensity of flavor packed inside. For the Spiced Apple, she sources apple molasses made from New York apples at Allens Hill Farm and transforms it into her luscious, spicy syrup via a simmered-down combination of fresh apple cider and fresh-squeezed orange juice, infused with chilies, cinnamon and orange peel. The ginger syrup—which launched the whole sticky shebang at a 2009 Williamsburg market in a church basement (“We made 40 bottles and sold them all in four hours”)—gets its powerful punch from juicing the rhizome with no added water. Today she also makes a Preserved Lemon, Espresso and, as of this past October (stocking stuffer alert for your favorite cocktail nerd!), a Grenadine that debuted as a specialty project for Williams-Sonoma last holiday, and which Morris admits, “was a real game changer” for her small start-up. And while home cocktail tinkerers seem to be the main market for the boozier side of syrup stirring, Morris is making special celery and lemon-ginger syrups for Mile End Deli in Boerum Hill, where they add them to soda water for super-fresh soda. Stick that in your glass and stir it.

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Amy Zavatto is the daughter of an old school Italian butcher who used to sell bay scallops alongside steaks, and is also the former Deputy Editor of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan. She holds her Level III Certification in Wine and Spirits from the WSET, and contributes to Imbibe, Whisky Advocate, SOMMJournal, Liquor.com, and others. She is the author of Forager's Cocktails: Botanical Mixology with Fresh, Natural Ingredients and The Architecture of the Cocktail. She's stomped around vineyards from the Finger Lakes to the Loire Valley and toured distilleries everywhere from Kentucky to Jalisco to the Highlands of Scotland. When not doing all those other things, Amy is the Director of the Long Island Merlot Alliance.