Jason Crawley has many credentials to his name. He is the Founder of The Simple Syrup Co, Founder of creative agency The Drink Cabinet, Inventor of Crawley’s Imperial Shaker Machine, Inventor of The Imperial Champion Shaker, has just created a new limited-edition Tanqueray Gin for global release and is an all-round respected bar industry professional.
As The Simple Syrup Co gets ready to celebrate its tenth anniversary on July 1st, we speak with Jason Crawley about the early days of Crawley’s Bartender Syrups, the state of the bar scene at the time, the major challenges and highlights that led to the growth of the portfolio.
Can you give us a brief summary of your hospitality career.
I was a very passionate bartender avoiding any sort of management roles from 1988-2007, in lots of different countries, in lots of different types of bars. I eventually ended up working as a Brand Ambassador for Maxxium. I then started The Simple Syrup Co in 2008, the Imperial Portfolio of products in 2011, The Drink Cabinet in 2013 AND I have a totally new alcoholic product (not gin) from a new start up business which will launch in August. Watch this space.
Why syrups, and how did you get the idea to produce The Simple Syrup Co ten years ago?
We noticed a gap in the market for a really great premium option. Made by bartenders for bartenders. No nasty artificial flavours and all natural products only. We also knew that the bar boom was going to need seriously good flavours to play a supporting role. Syrups find themselves in a huge proportion of everyday staple mixed drinks. We also realised, leading large group operators needed quality and consistent products in all aspects of their beverage strategies and efficiencies. I also knew small bars had to be ever mindful of wage costs and would move away from making time consuming complex syrups in-house, once a premium option entered the market.
How would you describe the cocktail and bar scene at the time you started The Simple Syrup Co and how has it influenced your decision to start producing syrups?
The bar scene was growing rapidly: there was great gusto around on premise training programs, astronomical-drink-creativity and a greater thirst for more historical based drinks. The small bar scene was not such a big thing as yet and most of the leading bartenders were working for rapidly evolving groups like Merivale. Zeta Bar had just opened with the first commercial foray into Molecular Mixology and bar consultants were starting to become a thing. Bar Show was massive. That being said, the developing scene was in no way responsible for my decision to try and get something going. It was solely a gut reaction to seeing a gap in the market.
Tell us about the production process and how it has changed in more recent years.
The production process has not changed at all. Same small kettle, same natural ingredients, same suppliers. Our ambition was consistency and stability. We have changed labels and pack size as we have evolved. I’m incredibly happy to announce we are now in our very own proprietary bottle, which is launching next month. Party perhaps?
Were there any particular challenges that you had to overcome?
As the portfolio has grown bigger, the biggest challenge is trying to manage requests for more everyday quality flavours. We buckled last year and gave in to making a “Real Falernum” which was tough to deliver as there are a lot of natural spices to deal with. It took twice as long as we wanted, but it was worth the wait. It is our fastest growing sku.
What were the first syrups you produced and how has the portfolio grown over the years.
The brand started in my living room in Bronte. I bought a metric tonne of sugar which was delivered to my shared front garden. We carried it to the first floor apartment and turned it into 10 metric tonnes of liquid! Something we had not factored on at the time – we thought we were going to squash our neighbours! The first flavour was Burnt Orange and Vanilla. My ex-business partner used to use it in the historic Lotus in Potts Point. It was made by accident as she left the pan on whilst serving customers, but when she tasted it, wow! She put it into Sours, Collins and Old Fashioned’s and they were the biggest selling drinks at the time. Our Tiki Syrup transformed into Pineapple & Almond, and the original portfolio was in 375ml. We also used to hand dip the bottles in wax until I hurt myself with it and moved to a screw cap.
Looking back over 10 years of The Simple Syrup Co., has there been one highlight that stands out for you?
The highlight was seeing it move into international markets only second to it being ranged in Dan Murphy’s.
What do you know today that you wish you knew 10 years ago?
In Australia, Crawley’s Bartender Syrups are distributed through Vanguard Luxury Brands (who also recently celebrated their 10th anniversary). Are there any other markets that carry the range?
Hong Kong, China, Singapore, New Zealand and UK in October.
Looking ahead, what can we expect from The Simple Syrup Co?
Our new bottle is pretty exciting to me, we have spent so much time on it and it feels like it has finally reached the pack it was meant to be in. It’s now complete. I am looking forward to walking into bars in Western Europe and seeing it ranged in iconic bars. It’s like spying on your kids on holiday.
In partnership with Vanguard Luxury Brands, distributors of Crawley’s Bartender Syrups in Australia.
Photo Collage of Jason Crawley and Crawley’s Bartender Syrups by Cocktails & Bars.