- CEO Earl Giles Distillery & Restaurant -

Jesse (Earl) Held

Jesse profile
  • Started bartending mid-1990’s
  • Bartended at various pubs, nightclubs, fine dining, casual dining, sports bar, resort bars, and everything in between all over the country.
  • 2008 walked into Town Talk Diner for dinner and drinks one evening, and experienced a different level of bartending and hospitality never experienced before. That experience changed my course, focus, and career path.
    • Town Talk Diner was the first place in the Twin Cities, at that time, doing their own infusions, making their own liqueurs, bitters, cooking their own syrups and cordials, making their own ginger beer. They were bringing culinary concepts from back of the house to behind the bar. From that moment I knew I wanted to be a bartender there.
    • Started reading as many books I could get my hands on, and could afford, about cocktail history and cocktail making.
    • Met Jeff Erkkila for the first time. Jeff was a cook at Town Talk Diner at that time.
  • 2009, while bartending at Bellanotte, created the Iron Bartender competition.
    • Wanted to bring together and showcase the hidden talents of many bartender around the city that were practicing the art of mixology to the rest of the masses.
    • The competition was loosely based around a TV show I was enamored by called Iron Chef.
    • Rounded up teams from 32 different bars around town and surrounding suburbs, marketed the first of its kind competition the best way I could (Facebook was brand new back then essentially), made some posters, and started spreading the word through going to other bars and chatting with other bartenders about what I was trying to do.
    • The 1st competition involved 32 teams and took 12-weeks (every Sunday night) to crown a champion. The champion ultimately was the team from Town Talk Diner, serendipitously.
  • 2009 was approached by Town Talk Diner bar team members to come over and start bartending behind their bar, and ultimately was rewarded as Head Bartender of Town Talk Diner.
    • Brought Jeff Erkkila out from the kitchen to behind the bar with me.
  • 2010 formed the framework and started the North Star Bartenders’ Guild
    • Was President from 2010-2013
  • 2010 was a main contributor to the cocktail book Northstar Cocktails
  • After Town Talk Diner, I went on to open The INN, Marvel Bar, and Eat Street Social.
    • Jeff Erkkila was a part of the opening bar team and we instantly got back into our old groove of making and designing our own flavors for the bar.
  • 2012 became GQ Magazine/Bombay Sapphire Most Imaginative Bartender Champion.
  • 2012 won the Woodford Reserve Manhattan competition
  • 2013 was voted City Pages Bartender of the Year
  • 2013 was offered Head Bartender position by Jester Concepts to design and create a cocktail program from the ground up for their new concept they were going to name Borough. The basement they wanted another, bar more cocktail-centric and didn’t have a name for yet. I came up with the name Parlour which everyone agreed was perfect.
    • Parlour was named Best Cocktails by MSP Magazine 2013 and 2015.
    • Parlour was named by Playboy Magazine as one of the 25 Best Cocktail Bars in the country
  • 2014, as Jester Concepts Bar Director, designed and created Coup d’Etat in Uptown.
    • Brought Jeff Erkkila back to Minnesota from Mexico to start a new concept I thought he’d really like to be partners on. Not yet called anything, but the early start of Earl Giles was happening.
  • 2014 was voted Charlie Awards Outstanding Bartender of the Year
  • 2015 created and designed Monello Cucina, and the basement cocktail destination Constantine.
    • Made Jeff Erkkila Head Bartender of Constantine.
    • Jeff quickly understood his full attention was needed elsewhere because of the demand from other places for our syrups was growing.
    • Constantine ended up listed by Forbes Magazine in the top 50 Best Hotel Bars in the country.
  • 2015 Jeff Erkkila & I legally formed Earl Giles Bottling Company LLC. Focusing on non-alcoholic cocktail syrups, cordials, elixirs, and ginger beer.
    • Earl is my middle name; Giles (pronounced j-iles) is Jeff’s middle name.
    • Started Earl Giles to help other bar programs which weren’t as fortunate as us, to have people on staff that knew how to make, or have the time to make, flavoring agents for their respective bar programs.
    • Started by working out of the kitchen apartment above Borough, and only had a handful of bars we were making things for.
    • Jeff was perfecting our ginger beer recipe over and over all this time from our days at Town Talk Diner.
  • 2016 was approached from outside interest to really focus on our ginger beer because it was really a cult-like following that really craved it.
  • 2017 in need of our own space because we were outgrowing our kitchen above Borough, toured a space in NE MPLS and instantly thought it was perfect for what we wanted to do. Realized the space was far too big for ginger beer and cocktail syrup production however.
    • “Kick the tires” of the idea with some close colleagues about starting a distillery along- side our non-alcoholic products.
    • Instantly our colleagues pushed for the idea to become reality.
    • Started conversations with a few interested investors and pitched our business plan and what we had a vision for.
  • 2017 created and designed Parlour Bar St. Paul bar program.
  • 2018 created and designed P.S. Steak bar program.
  • April 2019, scraped together some funding to make first run of ginger beer and bring it to market shelves as a pre-packaged soft drink.
    • 350 cases
    • Sold out in 2 months to our surprise!
  • Mid-2019 stepped down as Jester Concepts Bar Director to take the leap and go full-time commitment with Earl Giles to really make a go of it being successful.
    • Earl Giles Bar Consulting kicks into full-time action.
      • The Dough Room (2018)
      • Elephant Bar (2019)
      • Graze Provisions & Libations (2019)
      • Thr3 Jack (2019)
      • Brickhouse (2019)
  • Mid-2019 formed Quincy Street Distilling LLC, D.B.A. Earl Giles Distilling
  • Late-2019 signed a lease on the building we initially toured 2 ½ years prior to officially start our distillery and non-alcoholic operations design and vision.

After writing all this down in as best chronological order I can remember, I hope the message is I’ve spent my entire career grinding my way through 25+ years of 4:00am closing shifts, sacrificed holidays, having “un-normal hours”, and a broken-down body to have an opportunity to fulfill what used to be a pipedream turned reality. This kind of thing doesn’t happen to people like Jeff and I. We’re a bartender and a cook that are getting a chance to live out a career dream.

We both are on the doorstep of making an actual dream come to life, of building more than a distillery, but a legacy for our families to carry on. All the while doing this in our home state of Minnesota surrounded by our friends and the thousands of people we’ve served over the years and have supported us every step of the way. This is some kind of crazy that doesn’t happen every day in our world.

We both are incredibly grateful and humbled by the amount of support and encouragement from everyone around us, even the people we haven’t had the chance to meet face to face, but by mere tasting our products. It’s been an unbelievable journey to this point, and I can’t wait to see what the next leg of this journey brings us!

Cheers!

Jesse Held

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