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Happy Hour with the founders of Proof Syrup

Brooks Cloud, Julian Goglia, Kirk Gibson, and Mike Blydenstein - also the team behind the Pinewood - talk booze

So four guys walk into a bar ... Actually, they're already in the bar. It's their bar. Anyway, so they come up with the idea of bottling a first-class cocktail syrup with which to make Old Fashioneds (just add whiskey!), like the Old Fashioneds they make at their bar. Then, they do it. And it's a hit all over Atlanta and they all live happily ever after — at least, until October rolls around and they decide to do a pumpkin spice cocktail syrup. Then the world goes mad.

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The slightly longer version of this story is that the bar is the Pinewood in Decatur, and the four guys are bar manager Julian Goglia, chef Mike Blydenstein, partner Brooks Cloud, and bartender Kirk Gibson. They launched Proof Syrup in February 2015, with a traditional Old Fashioned syrup, a bacon maple syrup, and a pecan syrup. All three require little more than mixing with your favorite whiskey over ice to make an Old Fashioned, but offer plenty of room for creativity as well. Creative Loafing walked into a bar and joined them to talk about some syrup.

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How did you come up with your original Old Fashioned syrup?

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Kirk Gibson: We came in one Sunday night and went through 14 different recipes, plus a control — the actual Old Fashioned we serve here at the Pinewood. And it was unanimous ... we all agreed on one syrup recipe.

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So, just to be clear, this is a syrup that is used to make Old Fashioneds, as opposed to an old-fashioned syrup, like something you'd find in a rectangular tin with rustic drawings of log cabins in the Vermont woods?

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Brooks Cloud: We did the Party on Ponce, and we had 1,800 cups of Old Fashioneds that ran out in about two hours — and the thing that resonated with me ... probably half of the people immediately understood what our syrup was, and the other half were like, "Old-timey syrup? What is this?" If you don't know what an Old Fashioned cocktail is ... that's our marketing challenge! To inform people that the syrup is designed to make an Old Fashioned cocktail, but it can also make other things.

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And the other syrup flavors?

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KG: We thought we either had to launch with one, or three — and we played around and ended up with pecan using a rapid infusion of finely ground and roasted Georgia pecans. We also wanted to do a maple bacon one, but the problem was that it's easy to get bacon flavor into a bourbon, but much harder to get it into a syrup which you use much less of in a drink. Chef Blydenstein actually nailed it by suggesting Benton's bacon, which is like apples and oranges to other bacon with its intense smoke ...

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BC: ... but is also really hard to get! We ended up going to Star Provisions because it was on back order from Benton's.

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So, your newest flavor is pumpkin spice. Really?

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BC: We call it the basic bitch.

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KG: It's overdone, but ... it's delicious.

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BC: There's a reason why that is the most popular thing at Starbucks.

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Julian Goglia: You know, the one thing that made me personally sad about our pumpkin spice syrup, is that it tastes amazing in an Old Fashioned, but it does not taste great in a latte. The ratio of flavor to sweetness just doesn't work the same in whiskey as it does in coffee.

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Switching gears, what excites you about being in Decatur right now, where you're based?

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KG: I just love all the bars, obviously, but Decatur also does great with festivals — art or books or wine or beer. They shut down the streets, and you walk everywhere, and the Brick Store even has to-go beers during the festivals!

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BC: It's simply one of the culinary centers of Atlanta.

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Here are two simple recipes using Proof Old Fashioned Syrup that make for a great do-it-yourself bar station at parties.

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Proof Old Fashioned

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• 2 ounces bourbon or rye
?• 0.5 ounce Proof syrup

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Combine over ice and give it a quick stir. Garnish with an orange twist.

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Proof Champagne Cocktail

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• 0.25 ounce Proof syrup
?• 4-5 ounces sparkling wine

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Pour syrup then sparkling wine in a glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.



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