What do you get when you combine the passionate driving force behind Chattanooga Whiskey with the talented artisans at Pure Sodaworks? A batch of local syrups that makes at-home cocktail mixology a breeze.
By Candice Graham
An Idea Emerges
It was less than two years ago when Pure Sodaworks owner Matt Rogers invited Tennessee Stillhouse co-owner Tim Piersant to lunch. Over sandwiches at downtown’s Flatiron Deli, the two began discussing each other’s local brands.
“He was picking my brain about our company’s direction when we started talking about craft cocktails,” Piersant says.
Piersant had run into a problem. He knew that the craft cocktails drove demand for craft whiskey, but he hadn’t found a way to sell them in the Tennessee Stillhouse’s tasting room. For one, cocktails would mean hunting down dozens of ingredients – and the time and money that would take didn’t
make good business sense. Plus, they would require a variety of different liquors, and the Tennessee Stillhouse could only have their own alcohol on site.
So Rogers entered with a business proposal: why not create a suite of non-alcoholic mixers to combine with Chattanooga Whiskey?
“The idea was that a line of botanical syrups could cover all of those different flavor components,” says Rogers. “Then all it would take to make a classic whiskey cocktail would be the syrup, plus the Chattanooga Whiskey.”
Piersant loved it. The two shook hands.“Our companies started at the same time back in 2011. It just made a lot of sense to find ways to partner,” Piersant says.
Emulating The Classics
Concocting dead ringers for classic cocktails proved to be a labor-intensive process, but a fun one, nonetheless.
“After we talked, my mind started going crazy about how we could make this work,” Rogers says. “I went out and tried all kinds of cocktails so I could wrap my head around the flavor compounds. It meant drinking a lot of course, which was really rough,” he jokes.
With the goal of creating syrups that not only tasted like their cocktail counterparts, but looked and smelled the same, too, Rogers began doing intensive research. First, he studied ingredients of drinks like Manhattans and Sazeracs. Then he tested different syrup infusions and herbal ingredients to see what flavors needed to be brought out or toned down.“It was a lot of trial and error, a lot of experimentation,” he explains.
The result was a product line that could create cocktails with the same depth of flavor as those made with absinthe or gin. After months of testing, tasting, and trying again, six syrups designed to mimic the most classic whiskey cocktails were perfected.
“What I love about Matt is he’s such a mad scientist,” Piersant says. “He was
willing to use as many natural ingredients as it took to arrive at a product that tasted exactly like an Old Fashioned or a Sazerac would.” That meant
incorporating different herbs, spices, and juices until he came up with the
Reviving A Brand
When it came time to name these uniquely local cocktail syrups, the two settled on bringing back a remnant of historic Chattanooga.
“We took it as an opportunity to revive the Dr. Thacher’s brand,” explains Piersant. “It just seemed right.” A medicinal company in Chattanooga during the post-Civil War reconstruction days, Dr. Thacher’s Liver and Blood Syrup was said to cure anything from a headache to laziness.
Now its original image and typography—both historic and resolute – has been reborn as the official brand of the syrups. It’s a perfect match with Chattanooga Whiskey’s vintage vibe.
Currently, the Chattanooga-made brand is only available right here at home, but plans to expand are on the horizon. The syrups can be purchased directly from the Stillhouse, as well as from various retailers around the city.
As for the brains behind the products, Piersant and Rogers say they couldn’t be happier with what they’ve created. “Pure Sodaworks is Matt’s baby, Chattanooga Whiskey is our baby, and we kind of have this little baby together,” says Piersant.