Jessica Rollison, who is based in Berkeley, has just launched Bootleg Creamery. Photo: Bootleg Creamery

When Jessica Rollison started making her homemade ice cream available to her friends — who quickly spread the word to their friends — people went crazy for it.

“They would be calling me and saying, ‘I really need more ice cream, it was so good,’” she said. As she packaged up pints of Spiced Chai or Goat Cheese and Blackberry, she joked to her husband that she felt a little like a drug dealer.

Five months after rolling out her flavors and gleaning feedback from those original customers, Rollison has launched Bootleg Creamery, selling hand-packed pints online that are available for delivery or pick-up in the East Bay and San Francisco. Rollison also hopes to open a brick-and-mortar store one day in Berkeley.

Bootleg prides itself on “off the wall” flavors like Saffron and Rose
Bootleg prides itself on “off the wall” flavors like Saffron and Rose

Rollison’s is a whirlwind start-up story. She only moved to Berkeley from Los Angeles last July and she was working in the corporate world until the fall.

“I have no food background at all,” she concedes. But when she was laid off from a recruitment firm in San Francisco, where she had been pretty miserable, Rollison said she felt there was an opportunity to try something new.

“My husband said, ‘You really need to do something with food,’” said Rollison, who has always baked and loves spending time in the kitchen.

After starting out in her own kitchen, Rollison now makes Bootleg’s ice cream in a commercial kitchen on 10th Street which she shares with several other artisan food makers, including Anastasia Widiarsih of Indie Cakes & Pastries.

It’s the unusual flavors that Rollison favors for her ice cream that led to the company’s name.

“I like the speakeasy feel to it,” she said, adding that she thinks it works with her “off the wall” flavors like Cap’n Crunch and Pretzels and Beer. She describes Bootleg ice cream as “artisanal and avant garde.”

Chai ice cream
Rollison is partnering with local food purveyors like Oaktown Spice Shop whose Chai Masala is used for her Spiced Chai ice cream. Photo: Bootleg Creamery

Rollison is partnering with other local local food makers to create her flavors, be it Dafna Kory of INNA Jam, Oaktown Spice Shop, or TCHO Chocolate.

As self-described “churner-in-chief,” Rollison said she has perfected more than 50 different ice cream flavors. A new batch of flavors will be available every week online. Along with the less traditional options, there will likely be something more familiar too, like Tahitian Vanilla or Blood Orange Sorbet. (All pints cost $8.)

Before launching the website last week, Rollison has been serving her ice cream regularly at pop-ups, including at the California College of the Arts, at holiday parties, start-up events, and book launches, and Bootleg is still available for catering.

As she churns and packs, and creates new flavors to be delivered, Rollison said she’s keeping an eye out for that perfect spot for a store, possibly near where she lives and works.

“There are no dessert options in West Berkeley,” she said. “I think there’s a need there.” She has been speaking to Bettina Limaco who is planning a shipping container village on Sacramento Street, and exploring options on San Pablo Avenue, but nothing has been decided yet.

Meantime she is relishing the fact that a hobby and passion has turned into a full-time occupation. “Of all the jobs I’ve done this is the one I like best,” she said.

[Hat-tip: Bites & Bourbon.]

Like ice cream? Keep in the loop — see all of Berkeleyside’s recent ice cream related stories!

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...