WALLINGFORD — For 13 years, those in search of a cocktail found themselves ducking their heads and weaving their way down to dimly lit, carefully concealed watering holes to enjoy their favorite spirits and banter with one another, avoiding legal penalties attached to alcohol consumption through the Prohibition of the 1920s.
A century later, Prohibition is long gone, but that hasn’t stopped Sarah Glidden from opening a 21st century speakeasy and tea shop along with her husband, Jeremy Glidden, in Wallingford.
The new shop, Bones & Botanicals, 822 E. Center St., held a ribbon-cutting Thursday evening with friends, residents and town officials mingling about the cozy space surrounded by historical artifacts and other items evoking New England’s storied history of witchcraft
The owners have lifelong roots in central Connecticut. Both Sarah and Jeremy Glidden were born and raised in Wallingford, became a couple in high school and have remained sweethearts ever since.
Sarah Glidden did not initially envision herself owning and operating such a business; bouncing from patron to patron behind an L-shaped bar while mixing a blend of classic recipes and housemade original cocktails, each infused with her own homegrown herbal tea blends.
She described herself and her husband as zealous “DIY people” with a passion for gardening and distilling sandwiched in between her day job as a dental hygienist in Bristol and Jeremy Glidden’s work with the Department of Homeland Security.
Sarah and Jeremy Glidden once had aspirations of opening a distillery, but as was the case with countless other entrepreneurial-minded couples, the onset of COVID-19 led them reconsider their plans.
As a product of necessity, the two became seasoned experts in cocktail making during the lockdown phase of the pandemic, as there were no regularly open alternatives to grab a drink, Sarah Glidden said. The two also began mixing their own herbal recipes with established brands, giving an earthy kick to liquors like Maker’s Mark.
After emerging from sheltering in place in 2021, the couple recognized the one-of-a-kind commercial value of their homemade beverage recipes and herbalist-oriented spins on familiar favorites.
“We originally wanted to open up a distillery and we were making some of our own spirits and things like that, just as a hobby,” Sarah Glidden said. “As COVID happened we decided ‘hey this is something really creative, really unique, lets get on this,’ and that’s what spurred this whole experience.”
Among the most popular items the Gliddens concoct at Bones & Botanicals is their take on an old fashioned, infused with thyme and smoked with a blowtorch in-house.Staying local
The Gliddens make a point to shop local when purchasing liquor and beer or shopping for fresh ingredients to cook up the array of food and appetizers ready to order, said Justin Dumas, a repeat customer and lifelong friend of Sarah and Jeremy Glidden.
“Most of the beers are local. Most of the alcohol, if they can get it, they get it local,” Dumas said. “Even the food that’s all appetizers, it’s all from Wallingford Produce, so that’s all local stuff too.”
Though Bones & Botanicals serves strictly drinks and small plates, patrons enjoying to go boxes of chicken and waffles while chattering with one another is a fairly common site thanks to an unofficial partnership between the shop and an adjacent Cheeks Chicken and Waffles location.
Sarah Glidden permits customers at Bones & Botanicals to order a meal from Cheeks and bring their food into her shop. The decision to work closely with Cheeks, she said, stems from the same desire to support Wallingford businesses, which motivated her to shop local for produce.
“We want to build up other local businesses,” Glidden said. “We try to get all of our stuff locally. I love Cheeks Chicken and Waffles, and I love the fact that we work with them and we can tell our patron if they want to go grab something to eat and bring it in, that they’re more than welcome to.”‘Speakeasy meets apothecary’
The shop’s decor pays tribute to New England’s colonial history as a hub of both alleged and practiced witchcraft and a haven for herb-based healers, all of which Sarah Glidden said she developed a fascination with at an early age.
“It’s super New England,” Glidden said. “We have a lot of awesome history, we have a lot of cult history here. I wanted speakeasy meets apothecary. My whole life I’ve been into herbalism and plants, that magical feel.”
The small, dimly lit speakeasy aesthetic of Bones & Botanicals lends itself to spontaneous conversations between strangers, given the close quarters of the business and the leisurely, experience-oriented pace of service.
Dumas said he and a friend who accompanied him to the Bones & Botanicals’ grand opening were regulars for several weeks beforehand, when the shop first opened without the pomp and circumstance of Thursday’s celebration. During that time, Dumas said he often witnessed patrons strike up impromptu friendships on a regular basis.
“It’s very relaxed and open,” Dumas said. “We’ve seen groups of people who came in separately and didn’t know each other, all of the sudden leaving and exchanging phone numbers to make plans like they’re new best friends. That’s happened multiple times we’ve been here.”
The Gliddens have no plans to expand the space of their shop, Sarah Glidden said. To her, the charm of the location is derived from the warm, compact nature of the space, coupled with her relaxation-centered mentality for customers.
Bones & Botanicals, she said, was always intended to be an inclusive, communal experience for residents to strike up a dialogue with a friend or neighbor and unwind.
“It’s a quaint, little intimate place,” Sarah Glidden said. “It’s a place for people to slow down and get a break. I feel like every place you go to is over-stimulating and too ‘get you in, get you out.’ I wanted to create an environment for people to come and just exist.”