Origins of Rich Demerara

So where did Rich Demerara syrup come from?

 Jerry Thomas preparing a blue blazer, with demerara sugar

In David Wondrich's book "Imbibe!", Mr. Wondrich digs deep into the pre-prohibition cocktail era, particularly the writer of one of the world's first bartending guides, Jerry Thomas. It's a fine read, even if you're into the more tropical tipples, from both a historic perspective, and the deceptively simple recipes.

When recreating the drinks of the era, one also has to consider the ingredients of the time. Not everything is as it was, and the late 1800s was a time of very different trading routes, seasonal availability, and production methods. There was a lot more manual labor in those days, and not always of the well-paid union type. On what we are making now, David Wondrich notes that "our white sugar is too dazzling white, relying on production methods not known to the ancients of mixology."

Mr. Wondrich then goes on to note the abundance of other sugars available on the market that might come a bit closer, such as Demerara, Turbinado, or the "Sugar in the Raw" brand with its rich molasses hints. When mixing cocktails though, the author states "My general preference, however, is to use sugar in sours and fizzes and such [...] and what's known nowadays as "rich simple," a two-to-one syrup made with Demerara sugar, in everything else."

So, with the recommendations from Mr. Wondrich's seasoned palate (and I've seen the man down a punchbowl or two) offering guidance, how could we argue? Better than a simple Bar Syrup, Rich Demerara adds rich, sugarcane flavor to every cocktail it's concocted with. You may keep the modern sugar for lighter or clear liquor drinks, as the Demerara sugar may throw off the color a few shades, but Rich Demerara syrup for everything else.

For my tastes, a Demerara Daiquiri featuring a rich demerara rum can be quite lovely. Rich Demerara syrup is also a go-to when conjuring up an old-fashioned. If the recipe calls for Bar Syrup, or Rock Candy syrup as in Trader Vic's drinks of old, I'd recommend reaching for Rich Demerara syrup.