I turned off Washington Street in Easton, but quickly saw that I still had a ways to go. The long driveway through the woods from Washington Street in Easton to the Simpson Spring building might as well be a travel through time. You step out of your car and everything changes. The air smells of nothing but trees, earth and sky, and the building in front of you seems frozen in time. It was as easy to believe I was there a hundred years ago as it was that I was there today.
I had heard of Simpson Spring, a local independent bottler, frequently in the past year. Articles from local sources like The Boston Globe and Edible South Shore had piqued my interest — in particular the promise of a local winter market. So, one day a few weeks ago, I packed the twins in the car and headed of to explore.
It was worth going to see if only for the tour of the facility and the graciousness of Chris Bertarelli, the owner, who took a hefty chunk of her time to talk to me. She led us around the building, showing us laboratories old and new, the spring source and antique bottling equipment — telling stories as she went. Through her voice I was able to see through history. I saw the spring source that dates back to 6000BC and was used by Native Americans for hundreds (or thousands?) of years before becoming the heart of Simpson Spring. The building was born at the end of the Industrial Revolution, lived it up during prohibition and suffered during the Great Depression. However, the Great Depression was not the biggest threat to Simpson Spring’s bottling business; bottle deposits and corporate consolidation were. Now, there are less than 100 independent bottling plants in the U.S.
The tour was a fascinating look at the past and how a unique local product is made today. It is worth visiting Simpson Spring on a Saturday if only to take the tour (which is only offered on Saturdays) and to bring home a few sample sodas or seltzers, but why would you stop at a tour? Saturdays also offer something else at Simpson Spring that is unique in the area, a winter farmer’s market. Suburban Boston isn’t always the easiest place to find truly local products. Not only is Simpson Spring local, but they are working hard to help local farmers, bakers and even beekeepers find a local audience. On any day of the week you can visit the small market to find a selection of local meats, cheeses, pastas and honey. On Saturdays, year round, there is also a collection of local vendors selling goods such as produce, baked goods and soaps. Visiting local markets such as this is a wonderful reminder that keeping it local is not only good business, but it is also a way to get to learn about your surroundings and your neighbors.
I came home and excitedly told Hubby about my wonderful morning. I knew instantly that I wanted to write about Simpson Spring. I haven’t posted one of my “Field Trips” in ages, but Simpson Spring is special. Not only it is a local place, doing something the right way, but I was also so impressed by the owners. Their passion for what they do, their desire to improve the business without forgetting the past and above all their kindness was striking. Traditionally, I post about a place and then follow it up with a recipe inspired by my visit. As I sipped on my cream soda, I tried to think of a recipe inspired by my trip to Simpson Spring.
Inspiration came from the idea that their might have been wild prohibition era parties at the site. A cocktail made with a Simpson Spring Soda. My favorite of the sodas was the cream soda so I searched for ideas to make with cream soda. The first drink I came across was butterbeer. J.K. Rowling coined the term for the drink her wizarding students drank at the local pub. However, thanks to the adult appeal of Harry Potter, it is also a cocktail made with cream soda and butterscotch schnapps. Since soda is like dessert to me in the first place, the idea of a dessert cocktail sounded perfect. I cannot stand the artificial flavor of commercially made butterscotch and it didn’t make any sense to take a soda carefully crafted without artificial flavors and spike it with something loaded with them. If I wanted to make a drink with butterscotch schnapps in it, I would need to make my own butterscotch schnapps.
Turns out butterscotch schnapps, while a little time consuming, is easy to make. All you have to do is make a little butterscotch, cool it down and dissolve it in a combination of high-test liquors; strain off the butter and solids and you get a outrageously good dessert drink. When I added it to the cream soda to make the butterbeer it was too sweet, but I found that cutting the drink with a little freshly squeezed orange juice made for a delicious and perfect dessert.
Many recipes for butterbeer online call for the addition of frothy, creamy toppings. It does not need it. Like most things when made with quality ingredients, this drink shines with out a bunch of frilly additions. It is classy, sweet and very very tasty. Enjoy!
The recipe plugin I use, Ziplist, does not allow for multiple recipes in a single post. I’m including the drink recipe below in my own formatting. If you find this as awkward as I do, let Ziplist know!
This citrus laced butterbeer is not the Harry Potter version. Laced with fresh orange juice and spiked with Homemade Butterscotch Schnapps, this cocktail makes a wonderful dessert.
2 ounces (1/4 cup) Simpson Spring Cream Soda
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) Homemade Butterscotch Schnapps (recipe above)
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) freshly squeezed orange juice
orange peel for garnish
Fill a large glass halfway with crushed ice. Add the cream soda and allow any fizzing to go away. Pour the butterscotch schnapps and orange juice over the soda and garnish with a slice of orange peel.