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TABLE TALK

Southwestern Spirit

Entrepreneur creates gin with a desert twist

by MIKE COOK



It took an entrepreneur who is a native of Connecticut and came to Las Cruces by way of Maui to come up with a uniquely southwestern-flavored liquor and a company to market it that he calls “1 Seed Craft Spirits.”

John
John Ryan displays some of the ingredients
in his 1 Seed Craft Spirit (gin). The drink is
called a blood orange ricky and is made with
his gin. (photo by Mike Cook)

John Patrick Ryan has big plans for the product and the business and he loves Las Cruces.

Ryan, who turns 40 at the end of June, has had careers in solar energy and water technology. He also was a successful chef on the East Coast, where he became a “big fan of a well-made cocktail.”

He has a wealth of experience as a mixologist (he prefers the term “alchemist”) and as an entrepreneur – this is the fourth company he has started. Ryan came to southern New Mexico five years ago, when his wife, Rebecca, a molecular biologist, was offered a position with Sapphire Energy. He fell in love with the area and its people and decided to put his knowledge and experience to work in a brand new start-up venture that kicked off at the beginning of this year when he served1 Seed Craft Gin at Las Cruces Day in Santa Fe during the 2015 legislative session.

Ryan chose gin as his base because the wheat to make it is available nearby in Texas and Oklahoma and can be bought in bulk and shipped to a distiller. He began experimenting with local-source ingredients, “building world-class spirits from otherwise overlooked desert flora,” to quote his website, www.1SeedCraftSpirits.com. He prefers the word “spirit” to alcohol or liquor because it’s a very old word with “a little more meaning,” he said. “I’m crafting a spirit and I’m bottling it and sending it out into the world, honoring Las Cruces.

Ryan knew he wanted to include the flower of the chaparral bush in his spirit because of its evocative aroma. He also added juniper berries (Juniperus monosperma, better known as one-seed junipers, which are the most common juniper species in this part of the world – hence the name of his product), lemon, lime, coriander seeds, prickly pear and a couple of ingredients that aren’t locally available – he wants to work with New Mexico State University to grow them here.

Modeling himself on the success of Tanqueray gin, originally distilled in the Bloomsbury district of London, and Jack Daniel’s whiskey, which made Lynchburg, Tenn., famous, Ryan decided to build a business around his new creation and engineer a product that would be enjoyed in New Mexico, across the country and around the world. That included designing a uniquely shaped bottle, an attention-grabbing name and (with the help of a local artist) an eye-catching label.

Ryan wants his gin to be “a sustainable spirit that speaks to folks” in southern New Mexico and creates positive “food memories” for local residents and visitors. His long-range business goal is “to flood the community of Las Cruces with living-wage jobs and to constantly improve the life quality of all of those living in this beautiful valley,” according to his website.

“’Local first’ is not only our mantra, it is our way of life,” Ryan said.

Early taste tests of his new product have yielded encouraging results. “We really have something here,” he said. The greatest fear of any gin maker is, “Does it make a good martini?” The answer: “It makes a great martini.”

Once he has obtained the dozen or so local, state and federal licenses he needs to open the business (including securing a state liquor license), Ryan wants to “build a facility here and start selling.”

He’s now looking around Las Cruces for a suitable location, and plans to include a tasting room where people can learn about the flora of this area.

“We want to give them a tour of what’s in the bottle,” he said. “Each plant has a spirit, and healing properties. I want to be able to honor that.”

If it sounds a little “out there,” that’s okay with Ryan. “You’ve got to have fun,” he said. “I’m doing exactly what the hell I want to do.”

He’s already completed a business plan and gotten advice from the local chapter of SCORE, a nonprofit that helps small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Ryan said he has gotten great cooperation from the Green Chamber and the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce, including its Young Professionals committee.

“They have helped me go from being a fresh transplant to having a network of business contacts and friends. “This group has their stuff together,” he said.

Eventually, Ryan hopes his business will become a destination for locals and travelers. He’s building relationships with the owners of area restaurants and bars.

His eventual hope is to create spirits that can be paired with each course of a fine meal, like people do now with wine and sometimes with beer.

Ryan started blogging and tweeting about his process and created his own website to help “other people like myself to get into the entrepreneurial field. It really isn’t rocket science,” he said.

When the 1 Seed Craft Spirits product is successful in Las Cruces, Ryan plans to help people set up the same kind of business in other parts of the country – in Portland, Oregon, for example, where that area’s uniquely “piney, earthy” scents and flavors would be ideal for a new spirit, or somewhere in Hawaii, taking advantage of the islands’ fruity flavors, including ginger root.

“There is no prouder moment than taking someone who doesn’t have a job and making them a part of a company that is turning out an amazing product,” said Ryan.

Ryan couldn’t be more pleased with the reception he’s found in Las Cruces. “I think it’s damn near the perfect size, with the perfect population,” he said. And, it has a large retirement community, which is an important demographic for his business.

“I love the attitude here,” Ryan said. He is also very taken with the Organ Mountains, the sunsets and the monsoon season, with “the lighting coming up the valley.” “I just saw beauty. I don’t want to go anywhere else.”

As he builds his business, Ryan is now working as a product engineer for Pure Ops, a water utility company based in Las Cruces.

Ryan and his wife recently bought a house near Downtown. Their son is attending Centennial High School, and their daughter goes to Sierra Middle School.

“Las Cruces needs a bunch of these little ideas and concepts,” Ryan said. “El Paso and Sunland Park are growing. Let’s get them to come to Las Cruces … and make a day of it. It’s about helping people relax and bringing joy. I want to give Las Cruces a product that will bring people here.”


For more information, contact Ryan at 860-2354467
or jryan@1seedcraftspirits.com.

 



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