Take 5 with Karin Campion

Title: Founder, Sonoma Syrup Company

Home town:
Southern California, living in Sonoma for the past 12 years

1. How did you come up with the idea for making syrups?
I've always messed around with sugar in the kitchen from preserving fruit to candying citrus peel. I wanted to use the bounty of my kitchen garden. I had lavender, mint and Meyer lemon and I was always looking for ways to preserve it so I created infused simple syrup for iced tea partly because I'm an iced tea drinker and I hate the way sugar always settles to the bottom of the glass.

Infused simple syrups are a classic ingredient. I looked into the history and found them in the earliest American cookbook, dating back to 1796. I used to use traditional Italian syrups to make sodas at home, but I wanted a high quality natural syrup. So I use real California natural fruits and flavors and pure cane sugar--no corn syrup or anything artificial.

2. What's your favorite season?
Baseball season, summertime. With three boys in little league, there's lots of fun all summer long, then there's Memorial day, Fourth of July...


Also our production is seasonal, especially Meyer lemon, which is harvested November through May. June is the harvest time for lavender and this year I got to see it being harvested.

3. What's your favorite flavor of syrup right now?
The vanilla bean has fine seeds of Madagascar vanilla. This is the only syrup in the world with vanilla seeds in it. It's the most versatile syrup--you can use it with fruit, coffee, brandy, whipped cream, marinades, for caramelizing or in tea. Peet's Coffee & Tea is using it in coffee. It was just chosen as a finalist for the NASFT (The National Association for the Specialty Food Trade) 2005 Product Awards this summer.

I also love the Meyer lemon in ice tea and pomegranate for a pink drinks, tangerine for cosmopolitans and lavender in martinis, like they make at the Sonoma Mission Inn.

4. What's the best thing about living in Sonoma?
The food! Sonoma itself, the Sonoma farmers market, there are such natural beauty and flavors here. The Bay Area supports natural and scrumptious food, even the bartenders want to use natural local flavors!

5. What book are you reading this summer?
Vanilla : The Cultural History of the World's Favorite Flavor and Fragrance by Patricia Rain. I'm really enjoying it, it's great.