The Hurricane reigns as one of New Orleans’ most iconic cocktails. But like so many classic drinks, it’s been lacking in years when housemade, fresh ingredients were traded in for neon syrups that could be bought in a plastic bottle at your nearest convenient store. Originally, the Hurricane’s red hue was attributed to fassionola syrup, a crimson syrup made of strawberries and tropical fruits. But in decades past, fassionola syrup fell by the wayside, subject to the same fate of orgeat, Ojen and demerara simple syrups in a time when speed was valued over quality. The California company that made the syrup historically went out of business nearly a decade ago. But thanks to New Orleans’ own Cocktail & Sons, a company that produces small-batch cocktail syrups, fassionola syrup is finally making a comeback.
Last year, Cocktail & Sons founder Max Messier read an article on Eater.com, explaining the disappearance of the syrup alongside other syrups of its kind, and his interest was piqued. This was his chance to bring back a fundamental ingredient to one of New Orleans’ signature drinks, and his business presented the perfect platform to resurrect fassionola. “… And with this year’s amazing Louisiana strawberry crop,” Messier says, “the pieces just naturally fell into place.”
The process to create fassionola syrup is painstakingly long and involved; that’s part of the reason it waned in popularity. To create fassionola syrup, Messier blends together three component syrups. “First, an oleo of strawberries and lime. Second, a cook-down process with pineapples, mango and passionfruit. And third, a steeped hibiscus flower syrup,” he says. But this sophisticated technique maximizes the contribution of each element, creating a layered, complex and balanced flavor profile.
Cocktail & Sons’ fassionola syrup was released in early April and will be available in New Orleans stores, select stores elsewhere in Louisiana, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Dallas, and online through June 30th. The syrup is the second of an annual series of limited edition products, and its short-term availability also reflects seasonality of the ingredients. “Ponchatoula strawberries are in peak season from March until the end of May,” says Messier. “Pineapples and mangos have two seasons, spring and fall, where their sugar content is highest. We’ll produce the syrup until those strawberry fields are picked over.”
Ultimately, Messier’s hopes for fassionola syrup are about making his town proud and giving the Hurricane the ingredients it deserves. “The Hurricane is such a storied and iconic cocktail,” he says. “It deserves more than artificial colors and flavors out of a powder mix bought at the airport on your way home. In the same way that the Sazerac and the Ramos Gin Fizz have seen their moments in the recent New Orleans cocktail revival, people deserve to know how delicious this cocktail can be with fresh and natural ingredients.”