It was The Year of Scott.
After 18 years living the life he was programmed for, the time came to take some time off for a harmless midlife crisis. He learned magic tricks from a renowned local magician. He ushered at day games for the Minnesota Twins. He passed the introductory test to become a Sommelier. He camped in Yosemite for ten days with his two sons. And for the first time in a while, Sunday became the best day of the week.
So when a business idea for a cocktail mixer made of vinegar, fruit and sugar presented itself, he was ready to go all in.
Meet Scott Dillon, Shrubmaster General and founder of The Twisted Shrub.
The Conventional Path
Scott always did what was expected of him. When he turned sixteen, Scott heeded his dad’s advice that he get a job by becoming a bag boy at Ukrops, a local grocery chain in his hometown of Midlothian, Virginia. Later in high school, he worked for Nabisco stocking shelves as a summer sales rep. He went straight to the University of Virginia where he studied finance and marketing, and lived the classic college fraternity life.
General Mills hired Scott straight out of school. He graduated college on May 25, and started in sales in Louisville, Kentucky on June 6. He jumped all over the country to different sales roles of increasing responsibility. Along the way, he met and fell in love with his wife, K.C. Danzansky, a fellow General Mills salesperson.
After 18 years at General Mills, Scott was laid off in 2014 as part of a corporate restructuring. After so many years climbing the ladder in corporate America, Scott was ready for a change.
One June afternoon six months into The Year of Scott, he and his wife K.C. along with some friends signed up for a cocktail class at Parlour Bar. The instructor introduced the theme of the day as “Syrups and Shrubs.” None of the 18 students in the cocktail class had ever heard of a shrub. And yet, as soon as Scott tasted one, he knew it was something extraordinary.
The word “Shrub” comes from the word Sharab, Arabic for “to drink.” In the 1700s, early American colonials used shrubs as a way to preserve citrus fruit through the winter so they didn’t develop scurvy. After becoming virtually extinct after the invention of refrigeration, shrubs started making a comeback on the coasts ten to 15 years ago.
Within a week after discovering shrubs, Scott bought every kind of fresh fruit and vegetable he could get his hands on at the Minneapolis Farmers Market. He experimented with different sugars and vinegars. He hosted a big 4th of July party to make cocktails for his friends and get their feedback on his concoctions. The reaction was more than positive – Scott knew he was onto a big idea. A few months later in October of 2015, Scott officially debuted The Twisted Shrub at the Linden Hills Farmer’s Market.
The Cherry On Top
For Scott, one of the best parts of starting his business has been showing his two sons the value of hard work. Scott remembers coming home from a Farmer’s Market with $500 in cash and seeing the look of admiration on his kids’ faces. “Dad, you’re the best!” They said. “Mom, you never bring home cash like that…” Scott’s wife just gritted her teeth and said, “Yea, isn’t dad the best?”
Scott also loves being part of the local start-up community and takes every opportunity to give back to other beginning entrepreneurs. Scott is so grateful to people who helped him get his start. He likes to help coach other entrepreneurs by sharing his experience and expertise developed over 18 years in his career at General Mills, and now a year and a half into his start-up..
For all he’s gotten out of the experience of starting The Twisted Shrub, Scott is proudest of doing it all himself. He started over at the beginning when he didn’t really have to. He wanted the personal challenge of starting something from scratch and doing it all himself.
It’s working – The Twisted Shrub currently has distribution at 25 stores in the Twin Cities. Visit The Twisted Shrub for cocktail recipes and to order a drink mixer that will make you a real life bartending hero.
DIY Shrub Cocktails
Shrubs are easy to use – just add 1 shot shrub, 1 shot of liquor and soda water to taste.
Scott’s favorite is the Frisky Sour:
1 oz Peach Habanero Shrub
1 oz whisky or bourbon
1 egg white
Shake with lots of ice and serve in a high ball glass