Jared Hirsch and Absinthia Vermut are co-partners in NickelDime Syrups. The company’s first product is Caged Heat™ Cocktail Syrup.
Jared is a theater professional turned mixologist, now bar manager at Sidebar in Oakland, and a member of the bar staff at Southside Spirits in San Francisco. A self-taught foodie, Jared makes culinary based cocktails that are influenced by food and design.
While perusing the offerings at the Oaktown Spice Shop in Oakland, Jared combined three of their ingredients: tamarind, cardamom, and ghost pepper into a simple syrup to use in a competition at St. George Spirits, a distillery in Alameda, California. Due to his success at the event, Caged Heat™ was put on the menu at Sidebar where it quickly became the number one seller. Its obvious popularity increased the calls from his customers to bottle the syrup.
Absinthia explains, “If you’re making cocktails from scratch using spicy peppers, it’s challenging to maintain consistent heat. Caged Heat syrup solves that problem. It’s a simple syrup, flavored with natural ingredients and spices, that adds a spicy flavor to cocktails.”
Prior to joining NickelDime, Absinthia had been working on her own contribution to artisan alcoholic beverages. Many years ago, she tried absinthe and fell in love with it. When she brought some of her homemade absinthe to a friend’s party, the group gave her the nickname Absinthia. It stuck and now that she’s producing her own absinthe, it’s more appropriate than ever.
“In the 90s, absinthe was gaining in popularity, but it was very difficult to find here in the U.S. Mine is now certified organic and produced in California. The two Absinthia Bottled Spirits, Verte and Blanche, are produced at Marian Farms in Fresno, an organic and biodynamic vineyard which also operates a still.”
Jared and Absinthia met at Burning Man in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, an annual gathering celebrating various forms of artistic expression. Absinthia was serving absinthe cocktails at a birthday party thrown in her honor. She and Jared began talking about their mutual interest in cocktails, and a partnership was born.
The background that Absinthia brings to the venture is a degree in photography and years as a marketing consultant, and she will begin pursing her MBA at Babson College in San Francisco in the fall. “At first, Jared would call with a question related to my area of experience. Then it became a logical step to combine our talents.” Jared’s include knowing what bartenders need, creating flavor combinations, and interacting with and learning from customers. Absinthia’s include launching a product and planning the marketing strategy, including the website and social media.
“One year ago, we did a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to bottle Caged Heat. We reached 100% of our goal in just 7 days! Thirty cases of Caged Heat were shipped as rewards to our 191 backers, who also, of course, became ambassadors for it. Our early adopters are very loyal.”
Because of that success, the company began to sell on Amazon through their Launchpad program for crowdfunded projects, and through it have generated a strong sales with consistent growth. In addition, on- and off-premise locations in and around the Bay Area sell Caged Heat.
The partners’ latest success was in March 2016, when they won an Entrepreneur of the Year Award (one of only three given out) at the Nightclub & Bar Show in Las Vegas. From there they landed a number of national accounts.
“Caged Heat is a seductively spicy cocktail syrup that combines cane sugar, cardamom, tamarind, and ghost peppers to create a simple syrup that’s anything but simple. NickelDime's philosophy is to make cocktail syrups that bring the complexity of artisan craft cocktails to the home and professional bartender. Just add booze and citrus. Cheers!”