Nicolene Schwartz can’t work behind the bar at a dozen places every night, but she’s found the next best thing. Thanks to her line of Roake tonic syrups, any bartender can stir up the secret ingredients to her signature culinary cocktails.
Roake flavors like Spiced Cherry and Nine-Spice Winter Tonic are crafted with up to 15 ingredients each. Looking to take your G&T on an exotic journey? The Roake Citrus Quinine tonic is made with red cinchona bark, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf and other spices.
These are the complex flavors Schwartz likes to build in her own cocktail recipes, but which bartenders don’t always have time to create from scratch for every drink. (Fittingly, Roake is an old family name that was inspired by the stories Schwartz’s grandfather told her as she worked on recipes in his kitchen.) Schwartz plans to offer a core group of a half-dozen flavors, with additional seasonal and custom recipes to be rotated through the lineup.
The tonics are already featured on the drink menus at Rigsby’s, MoJoe Lounge and Arch City Tavern, where Schwartz is a cocktail consultant, and they’ve made appearances behind the bar at a few places where she doesn’t work, like Jury Room and Seventh Son.
Schwartz plans to spend the next year ramping up production for the core market of restaurant kitchens and bars -- and ensuring that her recipes maintain their integrity as the bottles get bigger. “I want to be confident that it still tastes the same once we scale it up,” she says. “I want to be in 10 to 15 great bars that understand what the product is and can do something creative with it.”
After that, expect to see retail sales on the web and at specialty liquor stores in 8- and 16-oz. bottles. (She’s now selling Roake to bars for $1 per ounce, but future wholesale prices should be lower.)
Roake could help any home bartender mix like a pro, but Schwartz doesn’t want it to be treated like a pre-made mixer in copycat cocktails. She wants her tonics to be transformed into new flavor combinations by like-minded mixologists. She says, “I hope that it prompts more creativity rather than being just the end product.”