We had the good fortune of connecting with Laura Menz & Moira Gilbert and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Laura Menz & Moira Gilbert, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
We met through our two daughters in Malibu and after both moving to Topanga, Laura threw a cocktail party and was looking for something delicious & fun to serve. Tired of wine and totally uninterested in the traditional drink mixers on the shelf, she thought “How hard could this be?!” Laura gathered fresh citrus and herbs from the garden and got creative in the kitchen, cooking up what would become our first few flavors – Sage- Lemon, Rosemary-Grapefruit, and Lavender- Lemon. Paired with vodka to bring out the newly minted citrus & herb elixirs, the drinks were an immediate hit. Moira recognized the value instantly and with her 30 years of history in fashion sales and marketing, not 24 hours passed before Muddle & Wilde was born. We got straight to it, brainstorming about packaging and branding while experimenting with flavor ideas on the stovetop in Moira’s kitchen. The passion & momentum only built from there, and three years later our product has achieved the status of a premium brand, carried at retailers such as Whole Foods, Crate & Barrel, Bristol Farms, gourmet grocery and premium liquor stores. While we’ve had to scale beyond what Moira’s kitchen could handle, Muddle & Wilde’s syrups are still made by hand and cooked in small batches using organic fresh citrus, herbs and spices. The difference is in the taste of Muddle & Wilde and not compromising on the process and quality of ingredients has been key to our success
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
What really sets up apart from competitors is the quality of our ingredients and the flavor profiles we’ve created. We started playing with flavor combinations at home, experimenting in tiny batches and determined that either we’d make something better than anything else that already existed or we’d let it go. It didn’t take more than a few months for us to see that we were on to something that completely opened up the idea of making delicious craft cocktails from home. At the outset, we were thinking on a fairly small scale, so there was a determination to craft everything by hand and source only the best, most flavorful ingredients – we didn’t just want any hibiscus or sage or lavender, as with teas or the spices you cook with, quality ranges pretty wildly. Our decisions were more costly but totally worth it – you could taste the quality & care that went into the syrups, so we became determined to grow without compromising on process or taste. As for the flavors, we would have gladly let this idea go if we found anything comparable out there, but we just didn’t. We both have a long history of playing in the kitchen, so setting out to creating flavor profiles that would match with both sparkling water or various types of liquor was the most exciting part. Along the way we came up with lots of options – flavors that were fantastic but too expensive or complicated to create, flavors that sounded exciting but fell flat, and eventually the set of 14 that we landed on that were just right. The beginning of building the business was the most exciting, but far & away the most challenging part. We didn’t have the contacts, had to learn the industry we were diving into, build the business acumen and find a way to start selling our product. We needed more than just the income to keep it going, we needed the feedback. Was Muddle&Wilde just something that only we saw missing from the beverage world, or did others see the value too? Farmer’s Markets were the natural place to start answering both questions. We often split up to different parts of the city, both Saturday & Sunday (beginning at 5am!), and got out there to sell our mixers. It was a lot of work, both mental and physical, but looking back it’s hard to imagine building our business any other way. This isn’t a product that sells itself – in fact, nobody knows what it is or how to use it. Educating our customers was the real challenge, what the heck is this little bottle and what does it do?! The local markets allowed us to start these conversations, meet hundreds of people a day, and build a customer base. The plan was to first succeed within our own community, then to try & win over Los Angeles. We knew that would open the necessary doors to introduce our syrups on a bigger scale. But wow, enough can’t be said about our early days at the neighborhood markets, getting direct feedback from people buying our mixers was the most valuable step in taking our idea mainstream. Needless to say, there were many challenges along the way, and we expect them to keep on coming … thankfully we’ve had a strong friendship in place for many years, and compliment one another pretty seamlessly. Moira has the business background from her New York fashion industry days, and is a great point of outreach for the company as her talent for engaging people is genuine and effortless. Laura is a creative whirlwind who treats each day as a chance to play, discover, and produce something new. Together it just works, and best of all, we’re having fun trying to build this thing from scratch … there’s a real sense of accomplishment, even if it hasn’t been overnight, to seeing an idea from a dinner party straight through to putting a product on shelves across the country. It’s sometimes hard to say if we’ve come a great distance or still have a long way to go, but we suspect it’s both! What they say is true – if you really believe in something put in the work and make it real … with enough passion and determination it’s very likely to succeed.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
DTLA, rooftop drinks, Arts District, Little Tokyo Boba & Bavel, head on over to The Row to say hi to the ladies at Flask & Field, definitely grab a fried chicken sandwich at Pikunico! Checking out all the phenomenal, ground-breaking architecture is such a fun way to tour LA, treat it like a scavenger hunt and find works by Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles & Ray Eames, Frank Gherry, Coop Himmelblau, Richard Meier, etc. Asian influence is one of LA’s best attributes – in non-pandemic times go for an afternoon at the Korean Spa and get a salt scrub, Korean BBQ after … Also love Sawtelle – Maybe LA’s best ramen, Tokyo-style street fashion, Giant Robot store & GR2 art gallery all fun Japanese-in-LA vibes.A few miles away in Culver City get a drink on the rooftop at Margot, and pop into one of the best art book stores in the country – Arcana. If you can bear a mall, head to Din Tai Fung in Century City – delicious Taiwanese noodles & dumplings, fun to combine with a visit to Annenberg Photography Center across the street for one of their world class exhibitions. Coast – Topanga Malibu & Canyons – hike Backbone trail overlook the ocean, head down to Cholada for Thai lunch, then grab a spot on Carbon beach, one of the least crowded & most beautiful beaches around (and #housegoals in every direction). Throw something respectable on & stroll over to Nobu for an expensive but worth it sunset drink on the water. Arts & Culture Day- DTLA -grab breakfast at Grand Central Market, hit the Broad for the mirrored room & great pieces from the permanent collection, a night at the LA Phil with Dudamel – dinner & drinks before or after at Otium next door. Wake up & brunch at The Line in Korea Town. Venice Beach – rent a bike and watch the show, stroll through the canals & Abbot Kinney, eat at Gjelina – ice cream at Salt & Straw. Get your burger at HiHo Rooftop drinks at Hotel Erwin. Rustic Canyon for dinner Further afield and only works when we’re not in the midst of a global lock-down, the Rose Bowl flea market is as fun as thrifting & antiquing get … for some post-excitement tranquility go for a stroll in The Huntington in Pasadena, a beautifully maintained sprawl of botanical gardens with a dreamy little tea house within the grounds.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
To all the wonderful people who have helped us along our way, in particular: Kim Wardlow of Bristol Farms who scouted us from the farmers market; Joe from Bar Keeper, Silver Lake who gave us our first order; Meagan at SEELA farmer’s markets; Whole Foods and Crate & Barrel for the amazing opportunity; Mountain Rose herbs for their excellent ingredients and our friends and families for all their support.
Youtube: Muddle & Wilde
Alex Tehrani & Laura Menz