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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From the Maker's Mouth: Waxing Kara

As the week comes to a close and we venture out to forage for raw honey and figs, we wanted to share an interview with Kara Brook, the creator of Waxing Kara Honey and honey based body products.  Waxing Kara is one of our newest lines in The Savory Pantry and we are so honored to get a peek behind the scenes of a brand that we so admire.  Turns out, Kara is as lovely as her products and packaging!

From the Maker's Mouth : Waxing Kara |
From the Maker's Mouth : Waxing Kara |

Who is Kara?  I am an artist and I paint with beeswax. More specifically, I paint with encaustic an ancient painting technique that combines beeswax, tree resin and pigment. The idea of a sustainable art play appealed to me, so I started beekeeping for the wax.

How did you get into working with honey and developing honey based products?  I got more honey than wax from my beekeeping endeavors, and began bottling and sharing with friends and family. When I started commissioning exceptional artisans across the country to make small batch body products with my honey, wax and lavender from our farm, I knew that things were about to get very interesting, and they did. I call our premium line of food and body products “Bee Inspired Goods”.

What is it about what you do that you love the most?  I enjoy designing and developing beautiful products that I love to use and share with others.  It’s exciting when I share products with friends, family and customers and they hold it in their hands, take a deep breath and acknowledge the beauty and utility all at once. 

How are your products different than other scrubs, lotions and soaps?  Everything that we sell is small batch, handmade and as organic as we can afford to make it. We don’t use any harsh chemicals, false fragrance or sodium laurel/eth sulfate, all paraben free.

What is your most memorable meal? I was very close with an executive chef from Rehobeth Beach Delaware, then later he moved Washington DC. and lived only about 30 minutes from my home. One evening he told me to invite a few friends over and offered up “lobster three ways” for dinner. He actually prepared this for us right before our eyes, so it was sort of a cooking class in my home. It was very casual and extremely elegant all at the same time. He did this a few more times, once with salmon and another time with steak. Each time I learned more about food in a direction that I had never seen it go in my kitchen! Sadly, he passed away a few years back. I miss him very much.

What is your favorite food or food trend? I am currently eating very healthfully. I just got back from a week away to Deer Lake Lodge where I did an 8 day fast. In getting back to my day-to-day life I am doing all I can to be prepared with whole fresh foods in our home, staying away from gluten, processed foods and sugar. Farm-to-Table and RAW food currently interest me the most. I go out of my way to find and support restaurants that support farmers, and make healthy food. I do it for the health benefits of eating local food and I do it to support local artisans, regardless of where I am visiting.

What's next for Waxing Kara?  I am going to keep on coming up with good ideas to support the bees and at-risk youth. 

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