BERLIN — In 1996, while working at the Middleton Tavern in Annapolis, Greg David decided he wanted to make a distinctive Bloody Mary and began developing a formula that would set his apart. Although it was almost an immediate success, the concoction David was serving was only very good. He wanted it to be excellent.
By the time he’d satisfied his goal of a singular Bloody Mary, five years had gone by and people began suggesting he bottle it. Unfortunately, making the drinks was one thing, digging in his heels and doing the grunt work involved in design, trademarking and developing a business plan was a little daunting. Bottling his recipe was one of the last things he was interested in.
Instead he was content to get annual recognition for his efforts in various Bloody Mary contests. Within a month of the Globe’s opening, David had won the Best Spicy Bloody Mary award at Seacrets’ annual Bloody Mary event and the Globe was on the map as among the best places to have a Bloody Mary in the area.
In late 2010, David’s girlfriend Theda Bakis added herself to the list of people encouraging him to begin bottling and selling his mix. He explained why he wasn’t interested, adding that if she wanted to go through all of the effort it would take to set up a business, develop a marketing plan, get a label designed and the other million things that have to occur before the first drop could be bottled, she was welcome to.
She recruited her sister Alex and their friend Anastasia Hollis from California and within a month the paperwork was complete and the stage set for what would become “George’s Bloody Mary Mix” to go into production. George was the first name of both David’s and Hollis’ fathers, both deceased, so they felt the name was a proper way of honoring them.
All that was required was for David to provide a recipe and participate in selecting a manufacturer. The only difficulty was that he didn’t have an actual recipe. After making the drink essentially the same way for a decade, the mix was more muscle memory than measurement.
“It took me three months to figure out what I’ve been eyeballing all these years,” he said.
George’s Bloody Mary Mix is as much about texture as it is about flavor. Making it taste right is only the first step. The real trick, and one of the aspects David insists will be the key to its mass-production success, is that the drink holds up to melting ice.
For anyone who appreciates the act of enjoying a Bloody Mary, there is always a small amount of disappointment when the bottom has turned to essentially tomato water. By ensuring that the mix provides the drink a satisfying finish, it improves the entire experience.
While perfecting the mixture, David also had some input with the final label design, which features the Ocean City skyline superimposed on a Colonial-style map of the region including the Chesapeake Bay.
“I think of it as a Maryland-style Bloody Mary,” he said. “It has so much flavor.”
For the last six-or-so months, David, Theda, and Alex have been marketing the mix to local bars and restaurants while the bottles were under production. The plan has been to offer it in large plastic bottles for service industry customers and in wine-style bottles for at-home consumption.
In his experience as a bartender, David said that the mixes bars tend to purchase need doctoring. The strongest part of his sales pitch is that his is likely the only one that is perfect right out of the bottle.
“All you have to do is add celery,” he said. “There’s no need to have four bottles on the bar to improve it.”
Many bartenders, he said, add horseradish and other ingredients to give a Bloody Mary a bit of zing or to make it hold up better on ice. As the summer comes on, the more efficiently a bartender can produce a quality Bloody Mary, the more drinks per hour they can make. In the end, David said, it’s not only a better Bloody Mary but probably not much harder on the bottom line than mixes that require doctoring.
“I don’t even think it needs Old Bay [on the rim of the glass],” Alex said. She said that her boyfriend generally prefers Old Bay but stopped adding it once George’s Bloody Mary Mix was under production.
David said the Ocean Pines Yacht Club has committed to eventually serving his brand, but that the initial demand was so intense he has to wait for the next production run to be able to meet their expectations.
In the meanwhile, drinks made with George’s Bloody Mary Mix are available in the Globe and at selected places in Ocean City and West Ocean City. Bottles are available at Cheers in Berlin, the Green Room in West Ocean City, and other area locations.
For more information and to follow the progress of the region’s newest drink mix provider visit www.georgesmixes.com.