Ginger beer companies were eager to capitalize on the Moscow Mule trend that swept the country in the mid-2010s.
Santa Monica entrepreneur Bill Tocantins also saw a business opportunity in the new thirst for the ginger, lime and vodka cocktail.
But Tocantins wasn’t making ginger beer. He was making Elixir G.
Each bottle contains concentrated fresh ginger grown on a farm in Hawaii. A few drops can be added to lemon-lime soda and vodka to make a Moscow Mule, squeezed into beer to create ginger beer or mixed into dressings, sauces and marinades.
Tocantins, whose company is based in Santa Monica, has been manufacturing his product since 2007, a decade before Moscow Mules came into fashion. He came up with the idea for Elixir G when he made a margarita with ginger syrup while creating the drinks program for an Indian restaurant.
The popularity of the Moscow Mule, however, catapulted the elixir into many more grocery stores, bars and restaurants, he said. Last year, the company sold 60,000 bottles of its mix.
For bartenders, Elixir G eliminates the need to buy ginger beer as a cocktail mix, Tocantins said.
“Most ginger ale isn’t made with actual ginger, and ginger beer that contains real ginger is expensive and usually sold in individual bottles,” he said. “A $25 bottle of Elixir G lasts a long time and cuts down on waste.”
Tocantins marketed Elixir G toward bartenders when he first started making it, but soon found that chefs were borrowing it to make everything from steak sauce to steamed mussels. It became popular with pastry chefs as well, he said.
“There was a chef in a restaurant up in Napa who was putting it in the cream cheese frosting for her carrot cake,” he said. “The New York Culinary Institute contacted us because they were trying to make a ginger creme brulee and were having trouble getting the consistency right by chopping up the ginger and putting it in, so we sent them a bottle.”
The company’s local clients include Enterprise Fish Co., Upper West, Gramercy and Local Kitchen + Wine Bar. Elixir G is also used in national chains like P.F. Chang’s, Benihana and LongHorn Steakhouse.
Tocantins said he wants to keep expanding into more restaurants and bars. He added he’s proud that he’s been able to compete against large beverage companies like Grey Goose or Patron.
“It’s a real David vs. Goliath story,” he said. “It’s just me and four part-time employees.”
He said he’s also hoping to diversify his line of gingery products. He currently sells ginger mix and ginger soap, and is looking into making a ginger mint tea or lemonade.
“Rather than make a whole slew of different flavors of cocktail mixes, we’re going the other way and just making different things with ginger,” he said.
Tocantins is less interested in making a ginger beer, however.
“People have asked me, “Are you going to do a ginger beer?” and I’m inclined not to because it’s not new,” he said. “I’m interested in doing something innovative, not a repeat of something else.”