Two Trips, Bootleg Botanicals, and Shorty Cigars

As some of you know by perusing this website or my tea blog, booze and botanicals are kind of my thing. Especially, when they’re combined somehow. My love of teabeers, for example, is practically synonymous with my Internet persona. Imagine my surprise when my latest discovery in this pursuit…came from an old childhood neighbor.

It had been years since I’d seen Ryan Belshee (the childhood neighbor) and his wife Melanie. The last time was by sheer accident at a house party. My contact with Ryan over Facebook was a new development. When I heard that he and his wife were starting a business after a successful Kickstarter campaign – and that it somehow involved absinthe – I’ll confess I paid it only half-attention. Not a fan of absinthe.

However, when I learned that they were opening the brick-‘n-mortar space for this new venture, I thought it high time I give it a looksee. And my jaw dropped.

The new business was called Bootleg Botanicals, and the innovation was genius in its simplicity. The idea was thus: Herbal blends used for infusions in liquor for the purpose of mimicking cocktails. Their flagship product was a wormwood-based herbal blend meant for reverse-engineering absinthe. Distilling wormwood is illegal in the U.S., but infusing wormwood in liquor is not. Hence the company name.

When I learned of the grand opening (albeit at the last minute – my fault), I was dead-set on stopping by. Herbs, alcohol and a dash of nostalgia; totally my thing.

The interior of the space matched the “bootleg” theme perfectly. Everything screamed “Roaring Twenties”, from the décor, to the lighting and cabinets. Much of the furniture was built by Ryan himself. Both he and his wife multitasked a crowd of people like seasoned pros with nary a dropped smile.

As for the infusions themselves, my favorites were The Old Fashioned and, strangely enough, the Absinthe. I hate regular absinthe…and I liked this. That’s saying a lot. Or nothing at all. I dunno…you pick.

I left with a little bit of a buzz, but nothing major. I swear…um…officer.

Fast-forward to a couple of weeks later, and Bootleg Botanicals hosted their first event. During their opening, they hadn’t accrued a cigar collection, yet. But in the ensuing time, they struck a deal with Shorty’s Cigar Collection, as well as convinced its purveyor – Shorty Rossi – to stop by. For those unfamiliar with the man, he was the creator and star of the Animal Planet reality show – Pit Boss.

The event was held on a Friday. I got off work early enough to swing by. A handful of years had passed since I puffed a nice cigar. That and I also meant to stop by to procure a Bootleg-branded flask. For what? I dunno. Barrel-aged tea, probably.

I settled on a San Bajito robusto (whatever that means), a stogie that Shorty Rossi blended himself. While I knew next to nothing about the cigar world, I knew what I liked. It was smooth, slightly spicy, and trailed with a woody edge.

I asked Mr. Rossi what made it a robusto. He illustrated the finer points of what that term meant. I understood none of it. So, that’s what it felt like when non-tea drinkers talked to me. How humbling.

The night was full of laughs. I put my foot in my mouth on more than one occasion. And I couldn’t even blame it on the cocktails. (I only had one.) I parted ways with a Bajito buzz, a giant burrito…and a lurking respect for canine bully breeds.

As of this writing, Bootleg Botanicals has secured several deals that are in effect. Ryan even confirmed that he and his wife are busier than ever catching up on wholesale orders. It would seem they hit upon a niche no one knew they needed. As a fly on the proverbial wall, I look forward to seeing their further growth.

Cocktail and cigar in hands, of course.

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Friday, October 17th, 2014 Beverage Blog

4 Comments to Two Trips, Bootleg Botanicals, and Shorty Cigars

  1. great article my man.

  2. Shorty Rossi on October 17th, 2014
  3. Thanks, Shorty.

  4. Geoffrey F. Norman on October 18th, 2014
  5. Thanks for the great write up!

  6. Ryan Belshee on October 18th, 2014
  7. @Ryan – Thanks for letting me loiter, twice!

  8. Geoffrey F. Norman on October 18th, 2014

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