When husband and wife team John and Michelle Davidson closed their popular South Pearl panini and bagel locale The Crushery in 2012 the idea of becoming big players in the world of hot sauce was not large on their radar. The two had been producing a well-liked batch of sauces that they peddled in the shop and occasionally at the local farmer’s market, but at the dawn of the decade, the line of condiments that would eventually form the core of Cooper’s Small Batch seemed to their mind a bit niche. Come 2016 the duo realized the world was in need — and perhaps John’s post-restaurant career of flipping houses and Michelle’s corporate life had started losing some of their respective charms. In either case, the previously small-time idea was revived and redeveloped into what is starting to gain traction as some of the state’s most imaginative local hot sauce.
John — whose culinary resume includes stints at Chicago’s Rushmore and New York’s famed Gramercy Tavern — initially set out trying to make original sauce primarily to spice up and cut the high-fat content of many of the items that graced The Crushery’s menu. The aptly titled restaurant produced everything — even down to the house-made croutons — on a panini press. The desire to provide a condiment that fit the extravagant food came naturally.
After a certain amount of deliberation and market research, it became clear that what had begun as a local table-sauce was meant for greater things. The line launched in earnest September 1, 2018 with four original sauces — Grundle Thumper, Jal up-in yo Tomatillo, Smokin’ Hot Date and Jerk My Chain. Since then the duo has added Leche Diablesa — an addictive combo of coconut milk, lime and peppers — and Thai Me Up, with an additional two new sauces — Jamaica Killer Sauce and Peaches En Regalia — having just debuted at the Farmer’s Market last Saturday.
Everything Cooper’s produces is developed with balance in mind. John’s fine dining background is made especially apparent by the sauce’s versatility and ability complement rather than dominate a dish’s flavor. “We want to give you things to help you make better food, not just heat,” said the chef. The brand’s cooking-orientated approach is further cemented by recipes being present both on the bottle and on the website.
The product’s eye-catching branding comes from Michelle’s marketing background — having spent many years working in high-end bath and body and other goods. “We want to make a hot sauce you’d feel comfortable giving someone as a gift,” said Michelle. The tongue-in-cheek and pun-heavy titles, sleek imagery and wax-coated lids give the brand a particular splendor that suits the quality.
While the Davidson’s have big ambitions to eventually get their wares in the home of any and every person who desires the heat, their current boots-on-the-ground approach is what has been endearing them to fans across Colorado. They recently appeared at the Slow Food Festival in Larimer Square and continue to dole out samples across the farmer’s market circuit. Buying directly from the personable pair comes with the bonus of some potential recipe advice and the opportunity to try the product in advance, but the Davidsons’ already have made the sauce available in over 100 retail locations — primarily in Colorado but also across New Mexico, Utah, New Jersey and California. Lucky’s Market, Jax Outdoor, McGuckin’s Hardware and Sam’s Meats are just a few of the spots where it is currently available.
Cooper’s Small Batch has no signs of slowing down with John continuing to experiment with seasonal ingredients and Michelle producing first-rate product development. While the two have been vocal advocates, the product speaks for itself. Luckily, hot sauce aficionados can welcome an excellent addition to the already wide landscape and celebrate the fact that the coveted recipes were not lost with The Crushery.
Sauces can also be purchased from Cooper’s Small Batch Online Store.
All photography by Alden Bonecutter.