Cole Randall and Jason Swenton of Sonoran Desert Olive Oil Co. are getting creative with their balsamic vinegars by encouraging local restaurants and bars to use their products.
“There are different things you can do with balsamics,” Randall said. “With cocktails and mocktails, it can be cool. Now, a lot of mixologists are using balsamic vinegars in their drinks.”
He offers peach balsamic vinegar in club soda, for example. The store’s website and Instagram have recipes for margaritas, the Neapolitan herb balsamic bloody mary and Cascadian wild raspberry mojito.
“You can do a club soda and vodka with a little bit of a nice fruitful white balsamic to make a really nice cocktail for the afternoon, especially here in this beautiful weather in Phoenix,” Randall said.
The Americano in Scottsdale uses Sonoran Desert Olive Oil’s coconut white balsamic in its drink Versace on the Floor.
“We want to make it versatile,” Randall said. “Some people just have white balsamic sitting in their cabinet and don’t know what to do with it. They only think about salads. We give them other ideas. You can put it on fruit salad, drinks and ice cream.”
Of the flavored olive oils, Tuscan is the most popular. It is used for everyday cooking, as it “really enhances the flavor of whatever you’re cooking,” Swenton said.
Sonoran Desert Olive Oil’s olives are not grown in Arizona, but various parts of the world. They partake in two crush runs a year — the summer and fall/winter runs.
Sonoran Desert Olive Oil Co. is a second career for Randall and Swenton. Randall owned a car rental company for 10 years, while Swenton’s day job is with Microsoft.
Swenton and Randall were inspired to start the business by friends in Mexico.
“They invited us up to their place to visit their stores,” said Randall about their friends’ three stores on Vancouver Island. “They’re very successful, and I thought it sounded like a good deal.”
Randall quickly learned that some of the flavors in Canada work well on Vancouver Island, but not here and vice versa.
“Their jalapeno white balsamic doesn’t do very well up there,” he said. “The spicier ones work well here.”
When the two were pondering their marketing collateral, they decided to make the saguaro cactus their logo.
“What embodies Arizona more than a beautiful cactus?” Swenton said. “We wanted to make sure that was part of our logo and theme for opening the shop. We also wanted a clean, modern look because most bottle shops have a more classic look to them.
“We wanted the store to look like what customers might see in their house.”
Sonoran Desert Olive Oil Co. has two locations — one on High Street near Desert Ridge Marketplace, which opened two years ago, and Gilbert’s SanTan Village, which introduced itself in October. The latter location doesn’t have the food selections or the big tanks from which to try the products. Everything is prebottled on High Street, and samples are given from larger bottles.
Randall said olive oils and balsamics are a passion. He enjoys helping customers find healthier choices for eating. Swenton added that roasted vegetables, like Brussels sprouts, go well with espresso dark balsamic or Neapolitan herb dark balsamic. Cinnamon pear pairs nicely with a fall apple crisp.
The Mayo Clinic’s nurses and doctors stop by the High Street location to talk to Swenton and Randall about the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil. A tablespoon of olive oil, the Mayo Clinic’s staff told Swenton and Randall, will help with joint pain.
“A tablespoon a day really can go a long way,” Swenton said.
The High Street store has grocery items like Frontier Soups mixes and Pappardelle’s pastas, which come in flavors like lemon pepper, basil garlic, organic red lentil, garlic toasted onion, garlic chive and hatch green chile.
“Pappardelle’s makes pasta in small batches and they’re really, really good,” Swenton said. “Then we brought in Frontier Soups. Those are amazing. It looks like it doesn’t make much, but actually it makes a big pot of soup.”
Olive Oil Skincare Company’s bathroom products, which range from bodywash to shampoo and conditioner, are for sale at High Street.
Mesa-based Spero Chocolate is available as well in selections like Scottsdale Blonde, Mesa Mint and Sedona Red Rock Raspberry.
“You’ll see them at the High Street Farmers Market,” Swenton said. “They make all their chocolate locally. A lot of their sales go directly back to youth sports, even during a weird year of COVID. They still make sure they’re taking care of the kids out there.”
As for the pandemic, Sonoran Desert Olive Oil is struggling but hanging in there.
“I’ve been open the entire time during this pandemic because people cook at home,” Randall said. “I do home deliveries. They don’t have to leave the house. We thought it was a nice gesture.”
—Executive Editor Christina
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