Our story

Mess Hall Cocktail Co., at its origin, was a preserving hobby, as Hans and I lugged home seasonal treasures from the farmers market to make mustards, preserves and pickles. As a chef in the midwest I learned that when the growing season ends, local fruits and vegetables can quickly become a distant memory. That is, unless you’re stocked up on a variety of pickles and preserves to brighten the long winter months. In 2010, we made our first big batch as a fundraiser of sorts, for a trip to France. We toted our jars to our friends house parties, music and art shows. Before long, we were selling our preserves at a handful of specialty food shops around town.

A couple of years ago, we started to notice that most of the cherries garnishing our favorite cocktails were overly sweet with a waxy texture, like they used to be cherries at some moment in time (long, long ago). It didn’t take long to learn why. Most of the American made maraschino cherries are bleached and brined in underground tanks before being injected with color and flavor. And many of the European style cherries are candied in a thick syrup that works for some preferences, but left us wanting more acidity, more complexity, and more textural integrity in the cherry itself.

Living in Chicago at the time, we thought about the hundreds of acres of cherry orchards on both sides of us in Wisconsin and Michigan. We thought about craft cocktails and how an amazing cocktail demands balance. So we bought a basket of Balaton cherries from one of our farmer friends (thanks Pete from Seedling Orchard!) and made a small batch for fun. Our goal was to make a balanced and complex cocktail cherry, fit for the high quality of craft cocktails that are being stirred, shaken, and poured across the globe. Mess Hall Cocktail Co. was born.

Even as we grow, our process stays the same. We preserve our cherries by hand, with demerara sugar, a splash of bourbon, and the smallest notes of black peppercorn, star anise, cassia cinnamon bark and rose petals–just enough to put the spotlight on the beautiful balaton cherry, along with the cocktail it graces.

Marianne & Hans