The ginger beer we wanted didn’t exist. So we made it ourselves!

Rachel Marshall

Birkenstory #7

Rachel Marshall, Founder & Owner of Rachel’s Ginger Beer

Rachel Marshall likes wearing Birkenstocks to work – something that once even cost her a job. This was one of the reasons why she and her partner Adam set up Rachel’s Ginger Beer six years ago.

We caught up with Rachel in Seattle. She tells us what she loves about Birkenstock and why she has the best job in the world.

Rachel grew up with three siblings in a small town in Washington state. A farming family, they didn’t have much money. “I delivered newspapers to make money and had a lemonade stand. Maybe I enjoyed working because I just liked to have my own money,” she recalls. Rachel started working in the restaurant business at an early age, always focusing on guests’ well-being: “If people were having a bad day, I wanted to give them great service to make them feel better. So hospitality and making food and drink for people – I suppose that’s my second nature.”

Bavaria and the Birth of Their Ginger Beer

In college, Rachel met a soccer player from Munich and followed him to Bavaria, Germany – but it wasn’t meant to be. In Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria, Rachel worked briefly at a US army bar, where she met Adam – her current partner and the father of their two children. Bavaria holds very fond memories for Rachel as its where she was living when her business idea took shape: on a short trip to London, her and Adam tried an old and refreshing beverage that has been around since the 18th century: ginger beer. They both enjoyed it so much that they decided to make their own.

And a Hundred Recipes Later …

Back in Seattle, they started out without any spare cash, working at restaurants by day and squeezing lemons by night. “We’d work all day and then juiced lemons until six in the morning,” Rachel laughs. “We were lucky that the chefs at the restaurants we worked at would let us use the kitchens for free, says Rachel. They experimented with countless recipes and carbonic acid mixtures – and sometimes had bottles explode right in front of them. After countless sleepless nights, they finally got the recipe right, and: a sharp, lemony, not too sweet ginger brew was born.

... Came Success

In the early days, they halved and juiced every single lemon by hand. When demand increased and they couldn’t physically handle squeezing all those lemons, they made their first investment: a juicer. “I think it cost something like $18,000, which is a huge sum when you start with no money,” explains Rachel. They soon started selling their product to restaurants and at farmers’ markets.

Their ginger beer was well received and gradually became a success. Their 13 flavors are now in demand in Los Angeles and New York.

Nowadays, Rachel and her team process around 20,000 pounds of lemons and 10,000 pounds of ginger every summer – all of which are carefully examined. “We feel like farmers: you start the day with fruit and end it with lemonade. It’s like sowing and reaping [a farm] in only eight hours. A very fulfilling process,” says Rachel. “The funny thing about our success is that we use just four ingredients: lemons, ginger, water, and sugar. Theoretically, anyone could figure it out, but there’s a little more to it than that ...”

Quality Is Everything: You Do It Nice – or You Do It Twice

Rachel’s principles are clear and simple. “Quality is not about shortcuts. You do it nice – or you do it twice. Sure, we could make way more money, for example, by using high-fructose corn syrup. But we use cane sugar. It’s a better product and it delivers a more healthful product. You need to have ethics somewhere along the line.”

After we had finished filming, Rachel invited our crew to crack open some of her ginger beer – is delicious beyond words. “Lots of people think they’re drinking alcohol, because of the name, but despite the name, it’s not beer,” explains Rachel.

Ginger Beer and Birkenstock

Birkenstock has had a big impact on Rachel’s life and business, and were a catalyst for Rachel becoming her own boss. After a “Birkenstock-related firing,” where the avid Birkenstock sandal wearer was let go from a job that did not allow sandals, it was clear to Rachel that she needed to be her own boss. This eventually lead to Rachel’s Ginger Beer.

Rachel sees parallels between her company’s ethos and that of Birkenstock. In her view, Birkenstock sandals are “a perfect high-quality product that you can wear for many years…they’re great.” she says. She bought her first pair 20 years ago and has “different Birkenstocks for the kitchen, for the garden, and for going out. They’re my uniform.”

“They’re a no-frills shoe they’re reliable, they’re German!”

We have the best job in the world!

Rachel and Adam both see it as a miracle that their idea was a success. They now have 80 employees, six branches including the hip “Montana” bar, and a store in Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market. “Sometimes we look at each other and can’t believe our luck and what we’ve been able to do in the last six years,” says Rachel.


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