I just spent a couple of days in Minnesota learning about 2 Gingers, an Irish whiskey brand. If that sounds odd, I’ll explain. In 1987, Kieran Folliard moved to Minneapolis from Ireland. After some time in the Midwest, he was yearning for a genuine Irish pub where he could hang out. There were several places in town that touted themselves as such, but they were Americanized versions, at best. At worst, they were sports bars that happened to serve Irish libations and decorate themselves with shamrocks and Guinness signs. So Folliard did the reasonable thing and opened his own Irish pub, making sure that it was true to those he had frequented in his homeland. His original pub, Kieran’s, was a success, and over time he opened three others.
Flash forward a number of years, when Folliard and his employees decided to figure out how to sell as much whiskey in the warm months of summer as they did during the winter. After a lot of brainstorming with his team, who he keeps close and trusts implicitly, they had a plan. A signature cocktail that was quaffable in any weather seemed like a surefire way to increase summer whiskey sales. Thus, the drink Big Ginger was born.
But, of course, they needed the perfect whiskey to blend into the Big Ginger. I spoke to Folliard at length about whiskey, and he emphasized that, when he founded 2 Gingers, his mission was to create a spirit that was affordable to everyone and didn’t give off a single whiff of pretension. While he enjoys and admires various expressions of Irish whiskey and even single malt Scotch, he was aiming for something else with his own brand. In addition to crafting an affordable whiskey from pure ingredients, he wanted to create a whiskey concocted specifically for cocktails. Most whiskey is triple distilled; 2 Gingers is distilled just twice.
Over a few days, I tasted 2 Gingers in a variety of delicious cocktails. I also went out of my way to sip it neat several times. While it is crafted for blending, it stands up to sipping neat. It’s smooth and mellifluous with no discernable burn or harsh aftertaste. That said, it really excels in cocktails.
At dinner on my first night in Minneapolis, we had a host of diverse cocktails with a variety of different foods. Each course, served family-style, was paired with a 2 Gingers cocktail and a beer from a local craft brewery. It was interesting to note that the drinks went well with not only the food, but the beer as well. It was easy to sip either, take a nibble, and move seamlessly between them. Among the cocktails, the 2 Gingers Sweet Ginger Sipper was my favorite. Big Ginger itself, Folliard’s signature drink, was a close second.
Folliard’s goal was to create a whiskey for the people. His aim was a whiskey that would blend impeccably into a well-made cocktail or work equally well as a shot alongside a craft beer. The good news is that he has achieved his goal. 2 Gingers works perfectly in those scenarios, and it’s eminently affordable at under $20 a bottle. The better news is that Folliard, ever the entrepreneur, isn’t stopping there. He’s founding a creamery that will produce a selection of cheeses. Folliard is starting off with cheese curds and other items that are ready quickly. Pretty soon, however, aged cheeses — at least one their rinds washed in 2 Gingers — will hit the shelves. On top of that, an entire line of charcuterie is also in the pipeline.
If you like to eat and drink genuine things, my advice is to keep your eye on what Kieran Folliard is up to. He’s an Irishman ensconced in Minneapolis whose interests, passion, and heart are equally vested in his homeland and the place he calls home today. Minnesota at large and Minneapolis specifically are booming areas for honest, good, and local food and drink. Folliard has embraced that ethos as much as anyone.