If you’re the average fancy-drinking Minnesotan, first you enjoyed the surge in fine local cocktails, then you sipped suds through the spectacular explosion of local craft brewing, then you were mad for the boom in small and local distilling. Now you find yourself with shelves of local hooch and no way to turn them into the fancy local cocktails that started this whole rigmarole. Well, problem solved! Introducing Earl Giles, the brand new mixer company being Kickstarted this week by local star bartender Jesse Held.
Jesse Held is one of the bartenders who started us on this long road to better drinking, tending bar at dear, departed Town Talk Diner (which was also the launching pad of bar stars Nick Kosevich of Bittercube Bitters and Birk Grudem of Hola Arepa). He went on to found the city-altering bar program at Borough and Parlour, which he still runs, and later added Coup d’Etat, Monello, and Constantine to the portfolio of places where he makes drinks. He makes a heck of a lot of drinks! That’s because he’s really good at it—inventing cocktails that are always a little surprising, never jarring, and built of big, complementary flavors that hit your palate like a softball finding the sweet thumping center of the glove.
Turns out he has done this all with the assistance of Jeff Erkkila. “Jeff is my liquid chef, my flavor maker,” says Held. “I’ll call him at 3 a.m. and say ‘I want to do this,’ and he’s the one who produces it.” The two have been talking for years about launching a side project that makes the impressive mixers they use behind the bar at places like Parlour and Constantine. Six months ago Erkkila started working full time on the project—which is called Earl Giles, after their two middle names. Upon christening the company they discovered that Erkkila’s great-grandfather, a northern Minnesota bootlegger during Prohibition, had that name. “Can you believe it?” asks Held.
Earl Giles mixers, such as ginger ale and tonics, will be available wherever fine mixers are sold, starting at liquor stores like Surdyk’s, Zipp’s, and South Lyndale, then expanding to grocery stores. Yes, you will be able to make the legendary Parlour Moscow Mule in your very own home! Four tonics will debut, including citrus, herbal, berry and florally-accented ones. There will be bitters, kicking off with Earl Giles sarsaparilla bitters, which Held says are magic in whiskey. There will be tinctures (like bitters, but without the bitterness) in flavors such as rosemary, lemon, huckleberry, and chamomile. Plus cordials in flavors like grapefruit or pineapple-vanilla and at least ten syrups made with different sugars and seasoning such as palm sugar syrup, a piloncillo syrup, a Ceylon cinnamon syrup, grenadine, and many more.
What will you be able to do with all of these cordials, syrups, and mixers? Anything at all! Combine the pineapple-vanilla cordial with bubbly water and cream or almond milk and you have a non-alcoholic cream soda; combine it with gin and you have a cocktail. If that sounds like something you’d spend respectively $5 and $9 dollars for at a restaurant, you are on to something—Held says his main customer will be the world’s many small restaurants and bars who would like to have high-end cocktails, but don’t have the staff or time to make it happen.
“We’re talking to distributors now. If a restaurant wants to have a beverage program, I’ll be available to them to design one, or if they want something simpler we’ll have a recipe book.” The main thing civilians have failed to understand about what Held does is that when he makes a Moscow Mule he doesn’t take a bottle of Schweppes ginger ale off the shelf—he grinds fresh ginger, then blends it with fresh-squeezed lemon and lime, and apple juice, then force-carbonates the blend. That’s the kind of attention to detail you’ll be getting in the new Earl Giles mixers.
Sound like what you want for your backyard barbecues this year? Get in on the ground floor by joining their Kickstarter, or just sit back and wait for Earl Giles to come to a retail shelf near you. Welcome Earl Giles, and bye-bye to sorry old Moscow mules of yesteryear.