Meet the Maker: Pink House Alchemy’s Emily Lawson

Emily Lawson of Pink House Alchemy

Emily Lawson of Pink House Alchemy

When I caught up with Pink House Alchemy’s co-owner Emily Lawson by phone, she was headed to her Fayetteville, AR, gym to sweat out a cold. To this entrepreneur, even a fever is a project that can be conquered.

Pink House Alchemy is named for the 115-year-old pink house in Fayetteville where Emily lived when Pink House Alchemy was launched. “It also shortens to ‘PH’ which is a hook for me as a food scientist.” Behind the thoughtful crafting of syrups, shrubs, and bitters is a long love affair with food that started with Emily’s first job in a bakery. “I’m a chef by training,” Emily shared. She attended culinary school in Telluride, CO, and “cooked [her] way through [her] 20s,” seeking out culinary experiences and exploring life in storied cities like New Orleans, Eureka Springs, and Telluride.  

“I really meandered in my 20s and learned a lot. I finally decided I’d better get a four-year degree under my belt, so I went to the University of Arkansas where my majors were dietetics and biology. I became enthralled with food science. I loved bartending, so there was sort of a natural segue into cocktails. Also, if you’re going to launch a business, it’s smart to spot a trend and follow it.”

Emily's display at a Pink House Alchemy tasting in The Savory Pantry, Hot Springs.

Emily's display at a Pink House Alchemy tasting in The Savory Pantry, Hot Springs.

We can all witness a brimming interest in specialty cocktails and freshly inspired combinations, but what factors are driving that movement? Why cocktails now? “People are paying more attention to what they’re putting in their bodies in general. The days of pounding Diet Cokes and Whiskeys is going by. People are no longer accepting additives and chemicals because they know those things aren’t good for them. There’s also a desire to learn about what we eat and drink, and to consider its composition . . . even to experiment and see if we can take an active role and even do better. Take the fresh juice movement, for example. There’s now recognition that not only is it not necessary to buy OJ in a bottle to make a screwdriver, but that the purchased product has a dominant role in the ultimate outcome of the drink. What does it mean for the taste of that drink if we juice it ourselves? What does it mean if we use better ingredients?”

A Pink House Alchemy  Margarita  crafted with Pink Pineapple Rosemary Shrub

A Pink House Alchemy Margarita crafted with Pink Pineapple Rosemary Shrub

Emily sees the success of Pink House as partially coming from the unique flavor combinations it brings to bars and kitchens, like the Strawberry Black Pepper Shrub and Pineapple Rosemary Shrub that are in The Savory Pantry. “There is a reason why there are food partnerships and cheese pairings; certain flavors are natural mates like orange juice with breakfast, wine with cheese, Coke with a cheeseburger. They just make sense and taste right together.”

And Pink House Alchemy is a natural mate for The Natural State. PH was able to expand its production dramatically thanks to the Arkansas Food Innovation program at the University of Arkansas, which uses a fee-based system to provide access to facilities for nascent food production businesses in the state that would otherwise struggle to comply with federal and state regulations. “We are not 100% organic,” says Emily, but we pride ourselves on ethically sourcing, working as hard as we can to source our ingredients as close to home as possible. All our berries, for example, are from Arkansas—blueberries, strawberries, elderberries. Our Caramel Black Apple Syrup is made from Arkansas black apples.”

Before she hopped on the elliptical, Emily shared what she’d tell anyone looking to get experimental with PH products. "For a solid basic bar, you’ll want a good selection of bitters and syrups; you’ll need bitters for everything you do. A good tonic. A solid grenadine. A Sodastream is a great investment to carbonate cocktails and sodas. Beyond the bar, our Lavender Syrup and our Cardamom Syrup can do everything—think breads, muffins, oatmeal, icing, ice cream.  “Every four months we come out with something seasonal—right now it’s the Caramel Black Apple Syrup. For what’s going to ultimately end up on menus down the line, follow the trend of what producers are doing because we’re looking at everything and considering it all.” And after just one conversation, it’s clear that Pink House Alchemy is.  

 Look for Erin’s upcoming Taste.Savor.Share Blog post related to Pink House Alchemy’s Sarsaparilla bitters

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Let’s Toast Julia Child!

Julia Child’s former summer home and iconic kitchen in Provence are opening for cooking lessons, retreats, and Airbnb rentals in the spring of 2017. 

The announcement sent my petit coeur soaring. Closing my eyes, I flew to Julia’s kitchen; her voice resonated from its tiles and pinged from her copper pots, referencing all its octaves. In my daydream, Julia lifted a grand piece of beef onto the chopping block as her first step in making steak au poivre, and instructed me step by step. Opening my eyes, I regretted that I wasn’t in France with Julia, but in my own home kitchen, left only with thoughts of a someday trip of a lifetime.

Then I thought, Why wait? Julia would not want me grumbling about a distant future plan. She’d want me celebrating what’s already surrounding me. So I decided to look up her favorite cocktail, which makes great use of cocktail bitters.

Toast the re-opening of Julia’s home with The Savory Pantry by trying this light and refreshing, equally no-fuss twist on the “Angosoda” she loved, along with another Julia-inspired champagne cocktail with aromatic bitters.

Barrel Soda

*Fee Brothers says, “These limited-edition bitters are bottled only once a year, in the spring, and when they’re gone, they’re gone!” Order now while we have stock.

Directions

Pick a glass you love, preferably one that is transparent so you can enjoy the drink’s color. Add ice to ¾ line of glass. Dash your bitters. Squeeze your lime and toss it in the glass with abandon. Fill with sparkling water to just below top of glass.

 

A Note from Erin: This recipe is perfect for an occasion when one wants to feel festive without getting catawampus. It is also practically calorie-free. Julia Child is quoted as having said, ‘The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook,’ and to the extent that this is a diet drink, it would certainly play that role well. It will not offend a palate that finds whiskey distasteful, but promises a surprising cinnamon and woody complexity. I love the zippy squeeze of lime—what my husband calls a ‘working lime’ (versus one that’s just there to look pretty).” Erin writes, edits, and joyfully flits about her kitchen for The Savory Pantry.

The Tomahawk Twist

*Fee Brothers says, “These limited-edition bitters are bottled only once a year, in the spring, and when they’re gone, they’re gone!” Order now while we have stock.

Directions

Pick a glass you love, preferably one that is transparent so you can enjoy the drink’s color. Cut blood orange in half. Cut one round for garnish and set aside. Juice blood orange into glass (or use separate glass and then pour into the glass you’ll use if you want to be extra tidy. Careful! Blood orange juice will stain). The size of your glass and your tastebuds can determine how much blood orange juice you use. Add 2 dashes of Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters. Fill to top of glass with Champagne or Prosecco. Note that you can find single-serving bottles, so this would be a fancy surprise for spring picnic with someone you want to woo! 

Mock-tail or low-alcohol alternative: Substitute San Pellegrino’s Blood Orange or Limonata Sparkling Fruit Beverage for Champagne or Prosecco. Bitters do contain alcohol, but you’re just using dashes. 

A Note from Erin: This recipe was inspired by a report of Julia Child being taught to open a champagne bottle with a tomahawk by a Colorado restaurateur. Now that’s fun! I love the festive nature of champagne and prosecco, and the idea that every occasion becomes special when a cork is popped. For this cocktail, I was drawn to the currently-in-season and always intriguing blood orange, as it seemed to speak to what could have happened if fate had differently guided Julia’s hand.” Erin writes, edits, and joyfully flits about her kitchen for The Savory Pantry.

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