Coffee cocktails have been having a moment. It makes sense, of course, this marriage of two of our favorite beverages that often bookend our days. Warm or cold, the roasted flavors of coffee blend effortlessly with spirits from bourbon, vodka and rum to cream liqueurs. Just this year, espresso martinis made the country’s top ten cocktails list published by CGA by NeilsenIQ. The coffee-spiked cocktail is a favorite of Haden Polseno-Hensley, co-owner and co-founder of Red Rooster Coffee, a 13-year-old coffee roasting business in Floyd, Virginia. “It’s having a real comeback,” says Polseno-Hensley. “Whether you use a good cold-brew or espresso, I like a vanilla syrup in the mix with vodka. It’s a good way to provide balance.”
One of Virginia’s more than 80 coffee roasters, Red Rooster began with a simple idea to roast single-origin coffee for his wife, Rose McCutchan’s coffee shop in Floyd. It was 2010 and nobody he knew in the region was doing this. “Our coffee, which was medium to light bean, gained a lot of attention locally. We promoted it in Roanoke and Blacksburg and picked up small grocery store accounts here and there,” recalls Polseno-Hensley. In 2012 he teamed up with Charlottesville-based Starr Hill Brewery for a match made in beer-and coffee-lover heaven: Little Red Roostarr.
The coffee cream stout was a hit in markets around Virginia. “It put our company on people’s minds at the state level, and we got picked up for specialty markets and grocery store chains like Whole Foods, Fresh Market and Earth Fare,” says Polseno-Hensley. Red Rooster has also established partnerships with popular regional restaurants in the New River Valley. At one of Roanoke’s top restaurants, River and Rail, customers can even select different blends. “We hit the markets at the exact right time!” says Polseno-Hensley.
The success of the company’s coffee, tea and syrups offerings have enabled the couple to invest in their community. With efforts concentrated on sustainability and the environment, the company sources beans from Peru, Ethiopia, Kenya, Costa Rica, Burundi, Colombia, Sumatra, El Salvador, and many more for its coffees. “Coffee is a collective effort,” Polseno-Hensley says. Red Rooster’s mantra is “take good care of our coffee, our people, our farmers, our planet.” They only buy Organic and Fair-Trade coffees for their signature blends and ensure that the farms treat workers equitably and are responsible stewards for their lands. Red Rooster offers biodegradable coffee bags and regularly donates coffee grounds and chaff from the café to farmers to compost and enrich garden soils.
Red Rooster also contributes to supporting arts education in Floyd. Polseno-Hensley and his wife this spring created a $1,000 diversity scholarship for a Floyd County High School student and purchased laptop computers for every student at a local nature-based school, Blue Mountain School.
Red Rooster and its sister company, JT Copper, that makes handcrafted syrups, provide everything but the vodka for Polseno-Hensley’s favorite espresso martini.
More than just martinis benefit from the flavorful syrups, which are available as individual products or in sets that include a cocktail sampler box with Grenadine, Sugar & Spice Cola, Firecracker and Golden Turmeric syrups. Their website even offers cocktail recipes to try with their flavorful product.
From such a modest beginning, Red Rooster has developed a Virginia-based business that weaves its core product, roasting exquisite coffee, with partnerships and projects that benefit communities not just in Virginia but around the world. Pairings with syrups for cocktails are just icing on the cake from this Made in Virginia business.
To purchase Red Rooster Coffee products, please visit redroostercoffee.com.
All photo credits: redroostercoffee.com