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Monday, May 23, 2016

BORN ON THE BAYOU

Mardi Gras Beverage Develops Following

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Mardi Gras beverage develops following

Phil Serio started serving a mixed drink at his annual Mardi Gras party more than 20 years ago to “adult friends and family to ensure a steady work crew to set up tents, seating, electricity and music,” he said.

Wanting his daughters and their friends to celebrate in a safe environment, he opened up the party at Old River Bayou’s Duck Pond Park and made vats of red beans and rice, hot dogs, wings, desserts and snacks to lure them back year after year.

“The Mardi Gras tent had a sign that read Bayou Tea Party, which many people misunderstood as political,” said Serio. “It’s not political – it’s spiritual,” he joked.

“Popsy’s Bayou Tea is a blend of tequila, vodka, rum, gin, triple sec and my own secret ingredient that produces its special taste. Just pour eight ounces over ice and add a three-ounce splash of cola and enjoy,” he said.

Folks, it’s a strong drink made with 40-proof alcohol. And, at least at Rotolo’s Pizzerias, it’s also a very large drink. Deceptively smooth, it’s a tall and icy 22-ounce bombshell.

Serio’s daughter and her husband, Jennifer and John Psalmonds, own the three Rotolo’s Pizzerias in Shreveport and Bossier. Several years ago, they added Popsy’s Bayou Tea to their menu and, to Serio’s delight, it just took off. He named it Popsy’s after the nickname Jennifer gave him when she was 3.

“The product evolved from having fun at Mardi Gras to becoming an actual business,” Serio said. “It started selling. I thought people were drinking it at the Mardi Gras parade because it was free.”

It was tested and had a successful yearlong run on Rotolo’s menu before Serio decided to look into marketing prospects for his drink.

“After two years of product development and government scrutiny, we are registered under the brand Popsy’s Bayou Tea. I’m just delighted,” he said.

It is bottled by a North Carolina distiller under the name Serio Southern Spirits, LLC, and distributed by Eagle Distributing.

Recently, CenturyLink Center sold out of Popsy’s before the end of a Def Leppard concert.

“It is growing in popularity and is developing a following,” he said. “It’s in its second production run and is available in the Shreveport-Bossier market, as well as the Lake Charles and Lafayette markets.”

During his 20-year-long Mardi Gras party run, his day job has been as a successful licensed financial services broker and owner of SERIO Financial Services. He served on the Shreveport City Council from 1994 to 2002 and on the boards of the Greater Shreveport Economic Development Foundation and the Louisiana Retailers Association for several years.

He and his wife, Sarah, have two daughters, Jennifer and Elizabeth, and three grandsons. Elizabeth and her husband, Nick McElhatten, own another popular Shreveport business, King Hardware & Gifts.

The entire family has been involved in serving the tea from the beginning of its inception.

“Obviously, the first business to help was Rotolo’s Pizzeria by allowing the recipe to be tested in their bar,” said Serio. “It will soon be in all of the Rotolo’s in Louisiana over the next few weeks. Elizabeth and Nick have been instrumental with maintaining our Facebook page and introduction into Derby Day. My wife, Sarah, allowed me to pursue a venture that was never on our horizon.”

“The drink is perfect for home entertaining because of the ease of mixing a fiveliquor drink. Commercially, it helps with cost control since all of the liquors are pre-mixed,” he said.

“The issue with startup businesses is that your first several productions are based on hope and a dream until you are able to create brand awareness and a desire for the product,” said Serio. “Currently, Popsy’s is being accepted in every venue that it has been tried. I believe in the concept ‘opportunity is only as rare as the ability to recognize it.’”

–Kathleen Ward

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