Nickel Dime Cocktail Syrups crowdfunding to expand product line

For Jared Hirsch and Absinthia Vermut, expanding their Oakland-based business means reaching out to the community that helped them launch Nickel Dime Cocktail Syrups nearly three years ago.

With just two days left for the company's latest crowdfunding campaign, the pair are hoping to raise enough funds to release three new flavors.

"We are an Oakland born and bred company," Hirsch told Hoodline via telephone. "Now we're looking to expand and are running a very similar Kickstarter campaign like we did three years ago."

As of this writing, the crew has raised $18,283 out of its $30,000 goal from 229 backers.

The company began as a side project at Adams Point saloon Sidebar (542 Grand Ave.), when Hirsch began tending bar. At the time, "one of our things was a spicy, flaming margarita, which was a novel concept at the time," he said. "People loved the cocktail, but we ran into issues when using fresh jalapenos--they are either too spicy or not spicy enough."

With a desire to create a recipe that allowed for a more controlled heat, Hirsch visited next-door spice purveyor Oaktown Spice Shop.

"I decided to give ghost peppers a try," he said, buying tamarind paste and cardamom pods to concoct a creation reminiscent of a spicy Mexican candy.

The resulting cocktail syrup was entered as part of a secret bourbon cocktail into an event at Alameda's St. George Spirts, "which turned out to be a hit," he said.

He later introduced it on the menu at Sidebar, "thinking that it would be a niche thing." To his surprise, the drink made double the sales of any other mixed cocktail on offer, he said. "People can't seem to get enough of it."

Hirsch teamed up with Vermut, who he became friends with on treks to Burning Man, to work together to expand the business.

"There was such demand for it and other bartenders and bottle shops wanted to sell it, but we didn't have a kitchen and we didn't have bottles," said Vermut via telephone. "This is not something that has ever been available for sale."

In addition to being a partner at Nickel Dime, Vermut is the creator of Absinthia Absinthe Blanche and the owner of Absinthia's Bottled Spirits.

The company's products also work well in soft drinks, say the founders.

"We recommend adding a little bit of our syrup with fresh citrus, like lemon, and soda and then topping it off with a couple dashes of bitters," said Hirsch. "We call it the 'Dry Heat,'" added Vermut.

According to the Kickstarter page, funds will be used to cover expenses like graphic design, videography, and a food scientist who'll help the company "source esoteric ingredients" and "formulate a recipe from the ground up that is shelf-stable, repeatable, and scalable."

Ultimately, say the partners, money raised "will go towards BETTER COCKTAILS."