Tired of drinking subpar cocktails, Paul Kubiski started tinkering with recipes for easy-to-mix additions to spirits. He and his wife Jackie Duhamel started Bootblack Brand small batch cocktail and soda syrups at Hope & Main last spring, and is now supply over 70 locations in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. In the East Bay, find them at Grapes and Grains and Black Pear in Barrington and Portsmouth Liquors, among others.
When did your relationship with cocktails start?
I was a bartender way back in the ‘70s. My mom had a catering business in Barrington so I started tending bar. I was trained in the classics, and as I got older, I came back to cocktails. In the early 2000s when I started creating cocktails at home, I looked to the classics again. Having a great cocktail is like having a great meal. It’s not about drinking, it’s about the flavor profile.
So you started developing ways to mix foolproof drinks?
I look at developing my syrups the same way you’d look at making a cocktail: drawing on things that are easy to use, and will up everyone’s game. I try to take a classic and update what everyone’s been doing for a long time. I’m trying to help people not be intimidated to mix good cocktails at home.
What are some easy ways to use your syrups?
The Cranberry Jalapeño Lime mixes well with spirits like tequila, mezcal and rum. I like to use it with tequila, a little mezcal and some lime juice. I call it Smoky Summer.
I created the Ginger Cardamom Lime syrup for rye. I do a riff on an Old Fashioned called the Three Compadres. It’s ginger syrup, rye and Fernet, which is an amaro used in place of angostura bitters. For the Classic Citrus Tonic, I make what I call a Broken Word, which is a play on a Last Word cocktail, but with mezcal.
We hear you’re working on a new winter flavor.
I’m right in the middle of working on an old fashioned syrup for the winter months. I hope to have it ready by the end of the year, but if not, it will be released in January.