House Made Podcast

Episode #15 - Huckleberry Syrup & Why We Make It

May 17, 2021 House Made Season 1 Episode 15
House Made Podcast
Episode #15 - Huckleberry Syrup & Why We Make It
House Made Podcast
Episode #15 - Huckleberry Syrup & Why We Make It
May 17, 2021 Season 1 Episode 15
House Made

In this episode we go over what huckleberries are, practical applications as a cocktail mixer and why we decided to make it available to you.

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode we go over what huckleberries are, practical applications as a cocktail mixer and why we decided to make it available to you.

John Vieira (00:01):
This is the house made podcast. We're your hosts, John Vieira and Nick Boban. We're going to cover your questions about home bartending. So let's get into it.

John Vieira (00:22):
What's up guys? Back again with another episode of house made podcast. Today we wanted to talk about huckleberry syrup. We have a few questions that need to be addressed and we're gonna learn about huckleberries and the cocktails that we can make with the syrup today. So to start, let's jump right into it. What are huckleberries?

Nick Boban (00:48):
So huckleberries are either one of two species I found out. Or genuses I guess if you will, I can't pronounce either of them. Cause they're both in Latin.

John Vieira (01:01):
Yeah. They're really hard.

Nick Boban (01:02):
They're very similar to blueberries. Actually. Huckleberries tend to be a little bit smaller than a blueberry would be. Cause blueberries can get penny sized almost, you know, some of them are really fat, especially when they come like good in the season. Huckleberries tend to be tiny. There's probably like two, three, four huckleberries per blueberry size, if you will. The plants are very similar looking. The biggest difference to them is that huckleberries have 10 large seeds in them where blueberries have there's infinite little tiny seeds in them. So from like making the syrup standpoint, you can definitely tell when there's a blueberry in there.

John Vieira (01:51):
Yeah. The seed thing was really interesting to me because when we, when we make almost any of these syrups, you're talking about large batches and having to strain, it's such an important thing to strain properly. But the huckleberries, especially you get these now, granted they're bigger than blueberry seeds, but they're still not big. You have to super fine strain. We usually use cheesecloth.

Nick Boban (02:15):
Big is in quotations. Yeah. Yeah. And even cheesecloth isn't good enough sometimes.

John Vieira (02:20):
You do have to be really careful. If, I mean, I guess it's not that big of a deal for us. It's a big deal. If you were making this at home, it's not that big of a deal if you have like a seed floating around or something. But yeah, I thought that was really interesting because I just assumed that they were essentially the same as blueberries.

Nick Boban (02:37):
Yeah. They're super similar blueberries tend to be a little bit more sweeter. Huckleberries are actually a little bit tart. Also huckleberries hate domestication. They are never going to get married. They're the wild child. So with that being said, all the huckleberries that we buy were actually hand harvested. That's why they're so stinking expensive. Yeah.

John Vieira (03:03):
They are. It's kind of absurd.

Nick Boban (03:04):
Yeah. Cause we're talking about, we're buying huckleberries by the gallon, which is about five pounds for in between like $55 and $65 depending on the season, which is outrageous.

John Vieira (03:17):
Well, especially when you're making gigantic batches.

Nick Boban (03:20):
But it's, that's like a quintessential Idaho thing. It's actually our state fruit, is a huckleberry.

John Vieira (03:32):
I didn't even know that. Our state fruit. I've never once thought about that actually.

Nick Boban (03:37):
That's why there's huckleberry everything here in Idaho.

John Vieira (03:40):
I mean, it makes sense. I see it all over the place. You know what I really love about having this syrup available at the bar and why I think it would be a really great addition at home is that you're not limited to the product flavor. Right? So when I think of huckleberry, we think of like 44 North and guess what? What if I don't want vodka? What if I want a huckleberry drink that has tequila? Yeah. I don't know of any huckleberry tequilas out there.

Nick Boban (04:12):
No huckleberries, aren't a thing in Mexico. That's the thing dude. So since they're wild, they're only grown or they only grow naturally in the Northwest. Yeah. So it was like here in Montana and that's about it. Probably a little parts of Washington and maybe a little splash of Oregon. But...

John Vieira (04:34):
So now that we know what huckleberries are and how much of a pain in the ass they are to actually get your hands on, why do we make this syrup? Why does house made syrup sell huckleberry syrup?

Nick Boban (04:50):
Well, it all stems back to our bar program, right? Because everything comes out of the bar. And before I started this bar, the bar that I was working at, which, unnerved me and I hated it, their number one selling drink was one that goes by the name of a huckleberry martini, which I don't like because it lends an improper name to a drink and helps just stem misinformation into the cocktail world. Not only that, it's made with huckleberry vodka, which at the bar, we don't really like flavor additive spirits. Doing this home bartending stuff I am gaining quite an affiliation for this value added product. As I would like to call it. These flavored spirits and stuff like that. They do lend a hand when you're making stuff at home, but from like a pure, like purest cocktail standpoint, I hated it. Just hated it. So anyways, huckleberry martini selling like wildfire. Didn't like it. Started the bar. Absolutely never going to serve a huckleberry martini. And we didn't for a long time and everybody asked for it.

John Vieira (06:15):
We still don't because the huckleberry martini, for those of you that may not know, is not necessarily...

Nick Boban (06:22):
Well, it's not a martini, which is why it made me so mad to begin with.

John Vieira (06:26):
Right. So this is just important side note.

Nick Boban (06:29):
It was just served in a martini glass.

John Vieira (06:31):
Right. So the word martini, this was a thing that happened in the 80s. It became synonymous for any cocktail that was served up in a stemmed glass because places all throughout the 80s, cocktail bars, and then into restaurants like Applebee's and stuff like that.

Nick Boban (06:47):
Or twigs.

John Vieira (06:48):
Or twigs. Everything became a martini.

Nick Boban (06:51):
They have a bloody Mary martini.

John Vieira (06:54):
Which is, which is crazy because a classic martini is such a great drink. And so when somebody says, Oh, well, what flavors of martini do you have? It's like gin or vodka. And you're not trying to be snooty, but just in case you guys are unaware or in case you go places and order things like this, just know that what you are probably expecting when you ask that question or what you are meaning to ask about would be lemon drops. Variations. It's a classic cocktail, it's got some citrus, it's got some sugar. They're fantastic. We've got a bunch of recipes for a bunch of different ones. And the huckleberry lemon drop is one of our top selling drinks, but it is not a martini. If somebody asks for a huckleberry martini that would mean we'd have to add syrup into it, which means that you're not really making a Martini. It's supposed to be vermouth and spirit.

Nick Boban (07:43):
Yeah. And I mean, I guess you could, and it would probably be good in its own regard, but yeah. It's not what people think of, I don't think.

John Vieira (07:51):
Yeah. I think that's the biggest thing is we're just, we're trying to go for realistic expectations. Right? So, anyway, just know that when you're looking on a menu or when you're asking your bartender for something, just maybe try to leave the word martini out, unless you're specifically asking for a legitimate martini, that's going to be gin or vodka and vermouth.

Nick Boban (08:15):
Yeah. So anyways, that huckleberry thing tainted me for a long time. And I finally just got over it and realized that huckleberry is our state fruit. Everybody loves it. And there's wonderful applications for a syrup that is huckleberry, and it's a trigger word. I'm not gonna lie.

John Vieira (08:41):
It kinda is. It's a total buzzword. The color's fantastic on it though.

Nick Boban (08:45):
It is. And you know what? It was such a pain to figure out that recipe because huckleberries are dainty.

John Vieira (08:50):
Yeah. They really are. They're surprisingly light, especially for being in the blueberry family. Because when you think of blueberries, it's like, wow, this fruit's got some, some tart it's like acidic, you know, it's got some body. Huckleberries are light. They're very light. They are super dainty.

Nick Boban (09:10):
Yep. I mean, even, and they're so expensive, you can't just use the juice out of it. So you have to add it. So what we wound up doing with our huckleberry syrup is actually beefing up the mid body with the introduction of some blueberries and some, what? We did phosphoric and Malic acid.

John Vieira (09:28):
Yeah. The malic acid was, was a big one for that flavor.

Nick Boban (09:31):
When you talk about huckleberries being tart, it's lost. That tartness is lost when you add a bunch of sugar to the product itself to try and stabilize it for the shelf and to add as a sweetening agent. And then you add the blueberries on top of it and it kind of beefs up your body, gives it a little bit more color, gives it a little sweeter Berry type flavor, but then you've got to mellow it back out with some acid.

John Vieira (09:57):
Yeah. And that's, for those of you that have never experimented making your own syrups at home, which you definitely should. It's a lot of fun. Essentially the, the method for making a syrup at home, which I think we have a blog post on, if not, we'll do one, would be steeping a tea essentially. So simmering a stock pot full of whatever kind of components that you're looking at. Right? So in our case, talking about huckleberry, you'd take some huckleberries and whatever else you wanted and you'd boil them down, you'd make this tea essentially. And then it's, it's time to add sugar. You're usually gonna do like a 1:1 or 1.5:1 Sorta ratio, just like you were making a simple syrup, except for this tea that you made has a lot of flavor and color and aromatics that you wouldn't get from just boiling water. So essentially you're making a simple syrup or something very similar with that. But the problem is that when you make certain flavors of syrup, some of these things just don't stand up. They don't come through well enough and huckleberry is one of those things. And so what we found when we were developing it was that it needed a little help from these other acids. Malic acid was a huge, huge hit in our opinion because it has kind of that like crispy green Apple thing.

Nick Boban (11:22):
Malic is the Apple acid.

John Vieira (11:24):
Right. So when you look at like candies that are artificially flavored. If they're green Apple, or I guess even spirits, if they're green Apple in any way, that's probably got a lot of malic acid. So it had this really nice, juicy, crisp green Apple thing alongside the huckleberry to kind of help just, you know, just give it enough of something to stand up against that sugar.

Nick Boban (11:46):
Yeah. And then we add a little bit of phosphoric acid to it too. It gives you, phosphoric for those of you that don't know, phosphoric acid is the acid that's used in soda pop to give it that fizz in your nose.

John Vieira (11:57):
It's kind of that magic sprinkles on top.

Nick Boban (11:59):
It is. It's kind of like salt.

John Vieira (12:02):
Yeah. It's like, you don't think about how important it is, but you leave it out, you're like, wow. It's just, it's missing something. There needs to be something there. And then all of a sudden you're like, wow, someone just turned the lights on.

Nick Boban (12:16):
Yeah. Okay. So why do we make it? It's our state fruit. It's a buzz word. It actually is really good.

John Vieira (12:24):
It is. It's so tasty.

Nick Boban (12:27):
And we probably would've made it a lot sooner. I was just so jaded from this job that I had literally like seven years ago over this stupid drink.

John Vieira (12:38):
That makes sense. And I'm so glad that we have it in the lineup because it's probably...

Nick Boban (12:44):
Oh, it's going to be our number one seller, overnight.

John Vieira (12:46):
The most accessible syrup flavor. So imagine you just walk into a store, our products are on the shelf with various other products, mind you. And you're, you're looking at the flavor selection thinking, man, what would I make with that? I guarantee you huckleberry is going to be one of your first choices. Now on that note, there's very few companies that we are aware of, at least a kind of in this area, regionally that really do much with huckleberries.

Nick Boban (13:14):
Our direct competitor does, and I bought it and it tastes like the rest of their products and it's twice as, or it's like $3 more than the rest of their products, which is crazy because their products are like $5.

John Vieira (13:27):
Well, this particular brand that we're referencing, the problem with their mixers...

Nick Boban (13:33):
Is they're made to go on crushed ice with no other flavoring.

John Vieira (13:37):
Well, the biggest issue for me, is that they don't actually taste like what the flavor says. It's more on the nose. It's like, you smell it. And you're like, Oh, this smells like a thing. But then what we were talking about with making syrups at home earlier, the flavors don't actually stand up. So when you taste it, it just tastes like really expensive, simple syrup. Plus, they want you to use a lot more of it in the cocktail.

Nick Boban (14:03):
You kinda have to because the flavor is so light.

John Vieira (14:06):
Right? So then you end up with overly sweet drinks that you can't really tame. And then your ratios for all of these recipes that we're giving you and recipes that you'd find online, all of these classic, you know, you think of like this 2:1:1 kind of ratio that we reference all the time, this golden ratio, It throws all of that off. So that's my problem with their products. I think they've just, they're trying to do too much stuff. And I feel like the value is not there. You look at the same size bottle and you look at our price and you're like, why is this one more?

Nick Boban (14:34):
I mean, we're literally almost three times as expensive.

John Vieira (14:39):
Yeah. But what's the yield? About three times.

Nick Boban (14:43):
You can get like 6 or 7 drinks out of theirs and you can get 17 out of ours.

John Vieira (14:47):
So that's important to note is our 16 ounce bottles, you're typically using an ounce or less in a drink. So a 16 ounce bottle, it's gonna make you 16 cocktails.

Nick Boban (14:58):
Well, technically they're 500 milliliters. So there's 16.9. And we actually overfill our bottles because I like the look of it when it comes right up to the top of the neck. So technically when a bottle is measured, it's not to the very tippy top. It's actually a little bit under the neck line is the actual fill line.

John Vieira (15:18):
Yeah. And that's just the way they're...

Nick Boban (15:20):
They're designed. Yeah. So we put more in it technically, but it's not on our label. We can't actually claim that.

John Vieira (15:29):
Right. But the fact remains that there is a lot of practical application for a syrup, especially that has a huckleberry flavor. Right? Because we're going to talk about some drinks that you can spice up, especially for the warmer months. Right? We're in to summer now. We're talking about some drinks that you can spice up this huckleberry syrup without having to change your ratios or your knowledge of these recipes. And you can instantly get this, this completely different product that will, I mean, it'll definitely impress your friends and your loved ones, I would think.

Nick Boban (16:09):
Okay, I'm not gonna lie. I've been super impressed with this huckleberry syrup since we made it. But the stuff that we can do with it...

John Vieira (16:16):
Because the flavor actually comes through. Right? And that's the hardest thing.

Nick Boban (16:18):
And because most of the other huckleberry stuff that's out on the market is like this kind of like hyper sweet artificial. And I know why everybody uses, cause you can buy huckleberry powder and add the stuff. It's way less expensive, but with our product and what we're doing is we're putting that tart component back into it. So it tastes more like a huckleberry and not like a crazy sweet additive.

John Vieira (16:44):
Right. And just to be clear on that statement that you just made, we're not using powdered huckleberry. That is an option. That's what some people may be using in their products. We're using actual whole huckleberries.

Nick Boban (16:55):
Yeah. Yeah. Well that's what, yeah. So I understand why people do it because it's way cheaper.

John Vieira (17:01):
Yeah. All right, so let's jump into part three of this. How are we going to use it? What's their practical application? Well, we just off the top of our head, we just kind of wrote down a few things.

Nick Boban (17:13):
One out of each spirit category.

John Vieira (17:15):
Yeah. We did a cocktail and there's so much more you can do with this, but we just did a really brief overview. We're going to put these recipes up on the blog.

Nick Boban (17:26):
They should hopefully already be there by this time.

John Vieira (17:28):
By this time. Yeah, absolutely. So these recipes are up there for you guys. You may have already even had these, especially if you're here locally, you may have come into the bar and have these as well, but these are really, really great ways to use this huckleberry syrup. We've got one for every spirit category. So real quick, we've got huckleberry lemon drop, right? Which is obviously like your, your vodka. We've a huckleberry gin and tonic.

Nick Boban (17:51):
Which, which we made on accident. And it is killer.

John Vieira (17:54):
It was kind of an accident, but it's so delicious. It's perfect for summer. We've got a huckleberry Mojito, which has been a top seller for us. And that is obviously rum. You get that mint.

Nick Boban (18:06):
Mint and huckleberry goes really well together.

John Vieira (18:07):
It really does. Mint goes well with a lot of things. We've got a huckleberry whiskey sour, which is kind of, it's kind of strange to think about when you, when you start to take like the classic whiskey sour and you start to kind of fru fru it up and, and do some stuff, you just don't think of it being that good, but this is actually really good. The fruitiness mixed with the kind of tart push from the lemon juice or lime juice is actually really good with both. Uh, and then the whiskey is just phenomenal. And then lastly, we've got a huckleberry margarita. This is probably the least common one. We don't get asked for it a whole bunch, but...

Nick Boban (18:47):
Except I did do a catering last, what was it? June or something like that for a birthday. Only thing we sold really. Yup. We blasted, I brought like four bottles of huckleberry and like three bottles of gin. Blasted all of it.

John Vieira (19:02):
Well, so the thing with, with the huckleberry margarita is it's outside of people's normal thought process. As soon as somebody orders one or as soon as they see one come out and it enters their mind as a possibility, they're like, yes. And so, especially if you are a tequila drinker, man, it's just delicious. And it's actually kind of cheap, especially making these drinks large-scale say for like a barbecue or something because instead of having to buy agave syrup and buying like your orange liquor and all this kind of stuff, you can essentially sub that out. Or if you want to get frisky, you can kind of come up with your own ratios, using something like our known and loved Cointreau to kind of beef up your margarita recipe. You can then use less of that huckleberry syrup, which is great. Cause that means you can make about twice as many cocktails with it.

Nick Boban (19:55):
Oh yeah. Okay. So almost all of these, all of these drinks, almost follow that 2:1:1 golden ratio, like we've been talking about.

John Vieira (20:04):
Most of them do. The Mojito has a little bit less,

Nick Boban (20:07):
cause you're going to add soda water to it.

John Vieira (20:09):
Yeah. Just volume wise. It's going to have a little bit less of your citrus component and your sweet component just because you're adding that soda water, but it does have the mint that kind of helps it stand up a little bit. And you're of course, welcome to experiment with this. If you have a large enough glass to add soda and still do the regular 2:1:1 that would taste fine as well.

Nick Boban (20:31):
It's probably counter productive to go over recipes right now. You should just go to the website and get it.

John Vieira (20:39):
Absolutely. We're not really going to touch on that, cause most of you are probably driving right now and you don't have a pad of paper anyway.

Nick Boban (20:44):
And don't get on your phone and try to write these down as we talk.

John Vieira (20:47):
Yeah. Don't crash. The point of all this is that we have all these resources ready to go for you at

Nick Boban (20:57):
Are those are just a couple. That's just what we came up with off top of our head.

John Vieira (21:00):
There's way more. This was literally like...

Nick Boban (21:03):
This is just the stuff we've done in the past. Well, I don't know. When did we start? So we did the huckleberry, we started it a year ago. We just didn't do it to resale, because for those of you who don't know the process to get that syrup actually out on the supermarket shelf is kind of a pain. So you have to submit it to a lab and you have to get it tested for its water activity and its pH, which actually is like a fairly simple testing. It just kind of shoots you back the shelf stability of it. So there's that. And then you have to go through the FDA label processing or process, which is actually 10 times as hard for food products, because that's how big your font is, where it's placed, what it is, your nutritional panel, your ingredient deck, all that kind of stuff. Then you have to mess around with the UPC codes so you can actually sell it in a store itself. Anyways, so to actually get a new syrup all the way to market with our limited resources right now does take a long time. We did this last run and when we start the orgeat and the huckleberry for retail? January ish, February ish. It's April now. So about four months, literally like two days ago, we're ready to go. Today I could have dropped it off at the supermarket at Albertsons, but I had a hair appointment and I ran out of time.

John Vieira (22:35):
Yeah. It's quite the process and it's for good reason, you know, to ensure that the quality and the consistency of...

Nick Boban (22:42):
I mean, it is government regulation so we don't kill people, is ultimately where it comes from.

John Vieira (22:47):
Yeah. We don't want to give out botchulism.

Nick Boban (22:51):
Exactly. So I'm just saying if we had more resources or like a bunch of employees or something like that, we could probably do new product stuff, turnaround time, a lot faster than what we do right now.

John Vieira (23:05):
Well, the nice thing about the huckleberry, like you said, though, is that we were using it in the bar, making it with the same recipe and workshopping these drinks for a year before it was even available to the public. And we had plenty of people asking us, which is why we finally decided, even though it's kind of a pain in the, we decided like, all right, let's do it. Yeah. People want it.

Nick Boban (23:25):
Which is crazy. It's selling like wildfire. Today, I just got an order online. Some dude bought four bottles of huckleberry syrup and two bottles of tonic all in the same order. I don't know if he's giving them away to somebody or if he's having a party or like, I was like, I just saw it come through. I was like, Whoa

John Vieira (23:41):
He's just gonna have a good time.

New Speaker (23:44):
Cool. All right. Well make sure... Go onto the house made podcast or sorry, Buy a bottle of huckleberry, buy a bottle of tonic, try it out, get these recipes.

John Vieira (23:58):
Buy one of each and just play around. Let us know if you come up with some really cool recipes. We can feature them on here. And man also, uh, we mentioned this before real quick, before we sign off. If you guys have constructive criticism, comments, suggestions, anything like that, uh, let us know. We're trying to just kind of grow as much as we can. We're trying to get this show out to as many people as possible. And we're trying to give you guys the content that you actually want because that's the reason we're here doing it. So, um, if there's anything that you'd like us to cover or anything that you think we could be doing differently or better, please just let us know. Send us an email or a message on something. We're literally doing this for you. So we're going to kind of cater to what you guys want.

Nick Boban (24:48):
We have potty-mouths and we have already gotten comments that people don't like our potty-mouths. So we are trying really hard to beef our vocabulary.

John Vieira (24:57):
Yes. And we're, I feel like we're doing a better job. And I think that is probably a good thing. We're a little bit more accessible to the everyday person.

Nick Boban (25:06):
Well professional and like, so we don't have kids. And a lot of these people are saying that they're trying to listen to this in the car.

John Vieira (25:13):
Which makes perfect sense.

Nick Boban (25:14):
Like yeah. Which I understand if you're listening to this where you're trying to take your kids to school or something like that.

John Vieira (25:18):
It's just something that we don't think about. So that suggestion that was made by a couple different people, actually, I can't remember their names. That was super helpful because we didn't know. We didn't even think about it. Yeah. So, and just so you guys know, I am going to continue to label the episodes for the next little while with the little E symbol for explicit, just because we might accidentally slip sometimes and say something.

Nick Boban (25:46):
Until we get our radio voices down.

John Vieira (25:49):
It should hopefully be very infrequently. I just didn't want to take the time to go back through every single episode and like, do like a sensor beep. So there should be hardly anything, but just, you know, I'm still labeling it with that just, just in case. And then maybe after a little while here, we'll, we'll take that off.

Nick Boban (26:05):
Yeah. Once we get, once we get our radio voices down. Uh, okay. But, so to comment anything, uh, any of these platforms, comment, if you're listening to us on Apple podcasts, please take 30 seconds, give us a five star review or a one star review, I guess. Well, don't do that, but give us a five star review. Let us know what you like, what you don't like. You can literally, our direct email that goes to my phone is [email protected] also [email protected] also goes to my phone. Yeah, you can go to either website [email protected] or sorry, or There's comment sections, or sorry, contact sections on each one. They push those same web addresses. Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest.

New Speaker (26:59):
We are heavy Instagram users. It's a lot easier for us, being old and not understanding current technology. Facebook is super hard. We will definitely do our best.

Nick Boban (27:10):
Uh, I'm really good at responding on those. Okay. I'm on Facebook. The only thing I'm not good about is Facebook marketplace.

John Vieira (27:17):
Yeah. Real quick. To what Nick said, if you guys listen to this and you have the urge to give us a one or a two star review, I would really, really appreciate the opportunity to maybe talk to you and see what we could do differently before giving us that review. It's just super hard. We're just trying to get in front of people and, and you know, how all that goes. One bad review can really bring it down and just, yeah. Just message us. We are actually, despite our poor vocabulary, we're actually really nice people. So message us. Just see if there's something maybe we can do differently or do better. So with that being said, we'll be back next week or later this week. I don't even remember what day this is. Uh, we'll be back with something new and different. Something that we haven't thought of yet that we haven't yet thought of. Maybe, maybe another vodka blind tastes test with some different brands that would be kind of fun. It's weird that we've spent so much time on vodka so far. Cause that's like not where we thought we'd be with all this, but it's what a lot of people drink. So it makes sense.

Nick Boban (28:30):
I just didn't realize I liked it as much as I did.

John Vieira (28:32):
That's true. And actually, when you have the right product, it's actually pretty good. Yeah.

Nick Boban (28:38):
All right. Well, cheers.

Speaker 1 (28:47):