Monday, March 5, 2018

Making The Big O

Every cocktail fan dreams of the day when you get the call...

The Big O Ginger Liqueur is ready for another batch and do I want to help?!?!? YOU BET!!!

Several years ago, when I first met Kathy Kuper and Bill Foster, creators of The Big O, I could not believe that they still chopped all the ginger by hand! I couldn't imagine this labor of love by only two people, so of course I wanted to help.

It took me a few tries to line up a time that worked since they only make their liqueur a few times a year. The Big O uses the still and equipment at Crown Valley Brewing in Ste Genevieve, so they have to drive down the ginger on a Monday or a Tuesday, when the still is available. Since it was early in the year, I had plenty of vacation days to use!

Luckily, the Big O has such a strong following that by now there are a long list of volunteers waiting for their change. As they have grown bigger, they are now up to producing the Big O three times a year, 1000 gallons at a time. And to reach that amount, you need nine, 30-pound boxes full of ginger, and that is where I came in.

30-pound boxes of ginger
Not only did some industry folks and family answer the call, a couple of cocktail bloggers from the D.C. area flew in to help as well. (Check out LaShawn at Sip.Ponder.Repeat!)

After an hour drive down highway 55 to Ste. Genevieve, we turned the bar area at Crown Valley into our mini chopping factory. A couple of people washed the ginger, then passed it to the choppers, who used large chef's knives to cut the ginger into smaller pieces. Then I took the small pieces and put them into a food processor. (See white bowl below.)

This was quite the exhausting process...

Ginger Factory Line

A whole lotta choppin' going on!
Once I got a bucket full of finely-chopped ginger "mash", the ginger was ready to go into the still!

Kathy and the distiller overseeing the pot
The still at Crown Valley Brewing is pretty impressive! Check the height on that baby!

Super tall still columns!
After a long day of hard work with only a break for lunch, we got to see some of the magic happening in the warehouse before we left.

The Big O in stainless steel

Jess approves of the barrel aging
Sometime later this year, you'll be able to drink some Big O that I helped to make!

Fortunately, since I was paid in booze (and swag), I won't have to wait until then to enjoy some Big O for myself.


The Big O =

Crown Valley Brewery =