Food & Drink | August 30, 2022 6:30 am

If You Love Both Bourbon and Soda, Have We Got a Treat for You

Talking to the artists behind Grisly’s Cosmic Black

Grisly’s Cosmic Black
Grisly’s Cosmic Black Mascot
Grisly’s Cosmic Black

What happens when two artists who share both a birthday and a love for craft soda and cocktails join forces? We got the answer from Eric Truehart and Samantha Franklin, creators of Grisly’s Cosmic Black, a canned cocktail with aged bourbon and craft cola. (Previously, the pair had exceptionally interesting jobs: Trueheart was a writer on, among other shows, Invader Zim, while Franklin is a bass guitarist with The Holograms.) Here, the Pasadena-based partners talk us through mythical monsters, musical inspiration and their debut drink, which comes with some arresting, psychedelics-minded branding.

InsideHook: Every hero has an origin story. How did you two birthday twins get together?
Samantha Franklin: I’m a bass player. I’m always looking for my other part of sections to collaborate with, and Eric happens to be a drummer. We relate to one another through the language of creativity and weirdness. When the pandemic struck, we were shackled into our small duplex together and were trying to think of ways to pass the time. This sort of became a passion project.

Eric Truehart: I’ve always been interested in spirits and cocktails. Samantha’s always had this huge creative side. [I’ve] been doing a podcast related to cocktails called The Army of Drunks on and off for many years [with friends at the Brewery artist colony]. I’ve always said the last thing the world needs is another midlife crisis bourbon — in the past few years, the markets have been flooded with new bourbons by these old guys who are doctors and have a few million dollars they can throw into something like that. We didn’t have any of that — but we wanted to create something. I’m a huge fan of spirits, and we felt like this was a route to create something completely different.

So, first came the cocktails. What inspired you to bring cola to your beverage party?
Franklin: We’re really partial to cola. We live in proximity to this amazing old tiny soda shop called Galco’s, which is incredible. We always noodle around their soda bar. We just really love good craft cola — so that was another component. Personally, I’m intrigued by the process of consumer packaged goods. It just seems so, like, big and larger than life, yet so far removed. It was kind of exciting to deconstruct that and figure out what are the respective steps to creating an actual viable consumer packaged good that can work on shelves in grocery stores. It was kind of a deconstructive process, working in reverse to figure out how to hit that big goal.

In a giant mythical woods of beverage giants, tell us about one of your victories with the Goliaths.
Franklin: There’s been these really remarkable moments when these titans of industry have been so generous with us, the little guys. We participated in that big cocktail showdown, BevNet’s Cocktail Showdown. They picked us for our performance. We submitted the most amazing video. It’s hilarious. We’ve got puppets — it’s just all of our ridiculous, hedonist take on the world. We gave them a comedy performance, and everybody had a blast. We didn’t win, but where we won was to be able to garner everybody’s wisdom. One of the top executives from BevNet told us, “You have created one of the most fucking delicious colas I’ve ever tasted. Why aren’t you selling your cola, stat?”  We said, “Well, because we’re a cocktail company.” And that’s what we’re going to continue doing.

It seems like art has been a pretty big part of your story. Tell us about the art on the can.
Franklin: We worked with an amazing rock poster artist out of Austin, Texas — we were one of her first clients. She really hit the bullseye with that yeti.

The name of your product and logo came about in an interesting way. Can you tell us about that?
Franklin: We put the name into a monster name generator. There were all sorts of things that came up, like “the grizzly frost paw,” “the static cling fanged demon face” — I mean all sorts of things.