Cheryl Watt wanted a simple process to make craft cocktails with bold flavor at home. No exotic ingredients, expensive spirits and liqueurs with limited use, or complicated techniques. She preferred to leave more advanced cocktails to the expert bartenders at Manifesto and other destinations around the city. Boozy Botanicals, a line of organic, handmade syrups, originated out of Watt’s determination to bring a basic component of cocktail-making into the hands of fellow cocktail fans.
“I fell in love with the creativity of bartenders making craft cocktails using infusions and bitters. I wanted to do this at home,” says Watt, formerly a lawyer for H&R Block who worked in the field for 24 years.
Watt studied cocktail menus and the ingredients listed. She began experimenting and making batches of flavored syrup for friends and private parties. Then Watt decided to develop Boozy Botanicals into a business.
Last summer she connected with Robert and Janet Bloom, owners of Tea Drops downtown location and founders of D’Bronx. The tea shop is located in the H&R Block headquarters, where Watt once worked. As a frequent customer, she became friends with the Blooms and worked out a deal to prepare her syrups in the tea shop’s kitchen in exchange for some light cooking in Tea Drop’s kitchen.
Boozy Botanical’s six products begin with a simple syrup. Organic ingredients sourced from local farmers and suppliers are used when possible. The ingredients are added to the base syrup to create flavors such as Rosemary Mint, Sassafras and Sunflowers, and River Market Rose.
“I developed Rosemary Mint first,” says Watt, an avid cook. “I wanted to stay away from fruit-based flavors. I love flowers, herbs and spices as the focus.”
River Market Rose uses organic rose petals, sugar, water and rose water. Sassafras and Sunflowers, ideal for use with bourbon and J. Rieger whiskey, uses sassafras sourced from the Ozarks, clove, anise, and sunflower petals that add a grassy, earthy flavor. Sister City Spice, named after the cities of Kansas City in neighboring Missouri and Kansas, incorporates cardamom, clove, saffron, anise, coriander and orange blossom for a flavor that evokes Indian cuisine.
“Sister City is good mixed with gin, rum, Champagne and tea,” Watt says.
Another syrup dubbed Peppers of the Plains uses jalapeno, serrano and Anaheim peppers sourced from a local farmer. “Sugar helps to tone down the heat in the pepper syrup,” Watts explains. It’s a best-seller and versatile. You can use it in tomato soup, chili, margaritas or as a marinade for vegetables.”
Boozy Botanical syrups can be added to sparkling water, lemonade, tea and coffee for a non-alcoholic drink. The syrups may be mixed with yogurt, ice cream or fresh fruit. Other suggested uses include marinades, salad dressings, sautées and baked goods. Watts likes to use Sassafras and Sunflowers in her oatmeal.
While other brands of craft cocktail mixers such as Bittermilk and Royal Rose exist in the marketplace for use with cocktails, Watts asserts that Boozy Botanicals offers a difference from those lines.
“These mixers are made in Kansas City,” Watt says. Similar products from Kansas City Canning Company’s shrubs are vinegar-based and use different flavors from Boozy Botanicals. “All of these mixers are complementary. I try to develop unique flavors.”
Boozy Botanicals are available at Urban Provisions General Store, Tea Drops downtown (1 H&R Block Way) and Tea Drops Westport (4111 Pennsylvania Avenue).
[Watt photo by Pete Dulin, product photos by Cameron Troy]