‘Schenny’s Not So Simple Syrup’ becomes sweet cause during pandemic

David Schenberg has made good use of his sugar surplus.

Like many of us, David and Randi Schenberg have been ordering groceries online. Recently, when David  Schenberg went to pick up the family’s order from Sam’s Club, he noticed a bag in his cart that he didn’t recognize. Turns out it was a 25-pound bag of sugar instead of 10 pounds, as the family had requested.

“I could give sugar to all of my neighbors and not use up the whole bag,” said Schenberg, laughing. “It gave a whole new meaning to borrowing a cup of sugar.”

Still, what to do with 25 pounds of sugar?

Flashback to December 2019. Schenberg, who works for World Wide Technology (WWT) as an innovation consultant, was on a business trip in New Jersey. As he sometimes does while traveling, Schenberg stopped in for a drink at a restaurant along the Jersey Shore and parked himself at the bar.

“I like to talk to bartenders because you can learn a lot from them,” said Schenberg, who enjoys dabbling in mixology. He especially appreciates a well-made old fashioned, which typically blends bourbon or rye whiskey with simple syrup, citrus and bitters. That said, there are literally dozens of variations of the cocktail.

“I told the bartender that this was the best old-fashioned I ever had,” said Schenberg, who belongs to Congregation B’nai Amoona. “He said while he couldn’t give me the secret, he gave me just enough information so I could tinker with the recipe.”

Once back at home, Schenberg got busy perfecting a simple syrup recipe for his own signature old-fashioned. When he served the drink at holiday parties, guests couldn’t stop raving.

“They kept saying it was the best old-fashioned they ever had,” said Schenberg. “I explained that it’s the simple syrup. People said I should bottle it, but who has that kind of time? Then COVID-19 hit.”

What has emerged from more time on his hands and a 25-pound bag of sugar is Schenny’s Not So Simple Syrup, Schenberg’s own special blend of sugar, citrus and spices. Rather than sell the syrup for his own gain, he decided to give 100% of the proceeds to area food pantries, starting with a check for $1,000 to the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry that he delivered last week.

“In 12 hours, I sold out the first 35-bottle batch,” Schenberg said. “It was to people on Facebook, on a pay-what-you-want basis. Some paid as little as $15 and some gave as much as $100.

“We then made 21 stops last Saturday delivering the first large batch. We’d set the order on the front porch, ring the bell and then step back and have a social-distancing chat.” 

Schenberg said he made the first batch with pots he had on hand. It took him three nights to finish 35 bottles. Realizing he needed a better system to increase capacity, a friend suggested a turkey fryer, which Schenberg found brand new, still in its box, on Facebook Marketplace for $20. All he wanted from it was the 30-quart stockpot so he could blend large quantities of the syrup at a time.

Nearly half of the bottles in Schenberg’s fourth 35-bottle batch, which he plans to make this weekend, have been pre-sold — that’s how much of a demand there is for the product. Not only can the syrup be used in cocktails such as an old-fashioned, but Randi Schenberg says it’s delicious on French toast and pancakes, too.

For this next batch, one of David Schenberg’s colleagues offered to match up to $500 of the proceeds, which will go to benefit St. Patrick’s Center and Food Outreach. On Tuesday, Schenberg learned that his employer, WWT, is offering to match, up to $1 million, charitable efforts like Schenberg’s, with each project getting up to $5,000.

“There are a number of things going on here that are awesome,” said Schenberg. “I’m channeling my creative energy I’m not able to put into work right now because there’s only so much you can do remotely. I stopped watching the news because I’m too busy — maybe I see 10 minutes in the morning. And I’m not binge-watching TV.

“This has given me a focus and energy. It’s something I can control and that’s good because everything else seems so out of control. 

“In addition to giving back to the community, I’m enjoying connecting with people I might not have otherwise. And it’s fun.”

To order and learn more, visit Schenny’s Not So Simple Syrup page on Facebook.

News and Schmooze is a weekly column by Editor Ellen Futterman. Email Ellen at: [email protected]thejewishlight.com