Park Rapids graduate is selling cocktail infusion kits nationwide – Park Rapids Enterprise

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series called “Where are they now?” Originally launched by the Park Rapids Enterprise in 2022, these stories highlight the achievements of area high school graduates. While Park Rapids, Nevis, Menahga and Laporte may be small, northern Minnesota towns, they produce large talent. If you know of an alum from the area who has landed a unique or exceptional job, earned a prestigious award or performed an extraordinary task, contact editor Shannon Geisen at sgeisen@parkrapidsenterprise.com.

Carly Helfrich made a delicious discovery.

Thanks to her trusty dehydrator and entrepreneurial ingenuity, the 2007 Park Rapids Area High School (PRAHS) graduate put a handmade, fruity twist on cocktails and launched her own company.

Today, her cocktail infusion kits are sold in 100 stores nationwide as well as on her website: adornwellshop.com.

From fitness to cocktails

“This was a pandemic project,” recalled the 35-year-old. “I was working in the fitness industry until April 2020. Long story short, I was laid off and found a lot of time on my hands. I was either out gardening or dehydrating stuff because I had a dehydrator.”

She lives in St. Paul with husband Chris Bruhn, a fellow PRAHS graduate.

At first, Helfrich sliced up and dehydrated oranges, lemons and limes to turn into ornaments, garlands and wreaths.

She opened an Etsy store to sell her home decor items.

“I joked that the ugly scraps weren’t ever going to be pretty enough to adorn something, so those scraps made it into a mason jar and I added some vodka to it one day. The outcome was really delicious. We started making Moscow mules with this infused vodka. I was like, ‘What the heck did I just do?’”

Helfrich did some research. “Infusing alcohol has been around for a really long time, but to bottle it up and put it on a store shelf was a new concept.”

“Honestly, I didn’t know much about cocktails when this whole thing started,” she said.

Helfrich began researching classic cocktails.

“I experimented with making them without the infusion process – an old fashioned, for example. I would also go to different cocktail lounges and compare with how I would infuse it at home, so there was a lot of research involved,” Helfrich explained.

She began creating her kits under a cottage license. “Everything, for a while, I was making in-home so I could sell directly to consumers.”

Grant Ertl, another Park Rapids graduate and a graphic designer, created her Adornwell logo.

Initially, Etsy was her primary source of revenue. To date, she’s sold 6,000 kits there.

“It’s kind of a niche, gifty item,” she commented. “The sales did happen pretty quickly on Etsy.”


Helfrich is putting an innovative twist on classic cocktails. She has crafted flavors for every season.

Contributed/Carly Helfrich

That’s when Carly realized she should get her product into stores.

Some of her best sellers are lavender basil lemonade, espresso martini, berry hibiscus margarita, rosemary paloma and jalapeno mango margarita.

Each kit makes 6 to 8 drinks.

“You add roughly 12 ounces of spirit,” she said. “The whole idea is for people to easily take this product and be able to make a really delicious cocktail in one step, essentially.”

All infusions can be zero proof by adding boiling water instead of alcohol.

Every kit has a nine-month shelf life from the date of manufacturing.

At the beginning of 2021, Helfrich utilized her parents’ commercial kitchen “as a way to get my foot in the door to a wholesale license.”

Marie and Mark Helfrich have owned The Hilltop Inn, located at the south end of Long Lake, for 37 years.

For the first six months of going wholesale, Carly was driving to the village of Hubbard, then hauling her product back to St. Paul.

In fall 2022, she moved into a shared commercial kitchen in St. Paul.

“The kitchen we found is associated with the U of M. They do a lot of agricultural and culinary work with the U. They work with local farmers as well,” she explained.

Carly can ship in or out of the kitchen, plus store ingredients and inventory in the warehouse. “It’s a great little setup for us.”

To expand sales, Carly made cold calls – walking into stores and asking owners if they’d be interested in selling her kits. The very first to accept was a candy store in White Bear Lake.

In her hometown, Aunt Belle’s Confectionary was an early adopter. Tippy Canoe in Nevis also carries Adornwell.“I’m now seeing liquor stores and distilleries pick it up,” Carly said.

In Minnesota, her product is in about 20 stores, mostly in Duluth and the Twin Cities.

“Nationwide, we’re in more than 100 stores.”


Helfich created her own line of rim salts and sugars that can be paired with her kits or given as gifts.

Contributed/Carly Helfrich

As her business grows, Carly has had to change production in order to keep up with demand. She hired a part-time employee to help with production once a week.“I am no longer dehydrating the citrus. I was, in the beginning, dehydrating everything on my own, but I now have suppliers for the citrus, which is good because it’s FDA approved,” she explained. “I’m sourcing out a lot of the ingredients now, which feels a little less handmade, but it’s how you grow.”

Carly said her dad encouraged her to find a primary and backup supplier. “In the restaurant business, they’re changing all the time and they’ll suddenly not carry the product you need,” she explained.

Carly devises a couple new flavors each season. “I’m working on some spring and summer stuff right now.”

As she experiments with flavors and makes alterations, she gathers friends for taste-testing parties.

“One of my favorite things is to batch up a bunch of stuff I’ve got and I’ll invite some friends over and get their feedback. Does it need to be sweeter? Or spicier?” she said.

She’s also expanded into a line of rim salts and sugars – like spicy lime or “garden party floral.”

The latter has seven different types of edible flowers.

Carly said she loves being her own boss.

“I never would’ve thought this would happen. I’m trying really hard to make sure I don’t have to go get another corporate job.”

Growing up and working at the Hilltop Inn, she credits her parents’ work ethic as a major influence. “You go, go, go. If you’re passionate about something, you work hard for it.”


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