If you had told Kathy Kuper and Bill Foster that they would distill premium ginger liqueur in Missouri for their second act in life, the pair would have laughed.
But that was more than 10 years ago when each had a day job, and they had just begun making quart jars of “Kup’s Smooth Cordial” to serve to friends and family.
“We started out trying to make limoncello, which was horrid,” Kuper said. “We gave up on that. Then we switched to something with ginger and it wasn’t so bad we had to throw it out.”
In fact, after two years of tinkering, Foster came up with a recipe that Kuper thought was perfect. But it was more than a decade later until a friend convinced them to take their recipe to market and sell the The Big O.
“The universe [seemed] to conspire to move us forward and help us out,” Foster said. “We’re just a couple of the luckiest people in the world.”
While serendipity helped orchestrate some of their success, a well-balanced ginger liqueur recipe handcrafted in the heartland didn’t hurt their case either. Unlike some ginger products with a taste that can feel like it’s burning your nose, The Big O is more subtle, with a mix of Asian spices and a hint of citrus that rounds the flavors out.
Two weeks ago the couple drove an hour and a half to their new distillery in Missouri to make 500 gallons of The Big O. With the help of family, Foster and Kuper chopped and prepared 120 pounds of fresh ginger for the new batch. In fact, the entire business is a family affair and Kuper and Foster often enlist the help of relatives to hand label each and every bottle they ship.
“Kathy has a pretty good palate. She gets the nuances… Her rule was it couldn’t be too hot.”Bill Foster
But for two people who would have scoffed at the idea of running their own business, Kuper and Foster are doing pretty well. When they pair started they thought they would be lucky to sell 12 cases of their ginger liqueur a month, but in the first six months they quickly surpassed that number.
“It’s just so versatile. We didn’t know that when we were putting it together,” Foster said. ‘We didn’t have a clue what we were doing.”
“It took him [nearly] two years to come up with something where I said, ‘Don’t put anything else in it or take anything else out.’ ” -Kathy Kuper
Big O Ginger Liqueur
The couple intended The Big O to be a sipping liqueur, but soon realized it could add a kick to a variety of mixed drinks such as a Manhattan or lemon drop martini. Foster even uses it to spice up his stir fry and salad dressing. Now they’ve got their sites set on aging The Big O in 50-gallon bourbon barrels.
“Oh my goodness, it is fabulous,” Kuper said. “It is truly a sipping liqueur. It’s like a cocktail.”
While the pair still can’t make a good limoncello, their ginger liqueur just keeps getting better with age.