bloody mary cocktail with celery on deck

A decade ago, Annapolis bartender Greg David spent his free time entering his Bloody Mary mix into contests around the state.

Now his George’s Bloody Mary Mix sold about 20,000 cases this year and is expected to sell nearly 60,000 cases next year, its fourth year in business. In October, its distribution will expand to 168 Giant Food stores in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Delaware. George’s is also the exclusive Bloody Mary Mix served in every bar inside M&T Bank Stadium.

George’s and New Amsterdam Vodka recently teamed up to raise funds for the Chesapeake Bay Trust, a nonprofit geared toward improving the Bay. When the two products are purchased together in July and August, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the organization.

“Just a bartender made a Bloody Mary mix is all it is,” said David, who once worked at Middleton Tavern and O’Brien’s Steakhouse in Annapolis. He now operates his business in Worcester County.
“Everything pretty much culminated in Annapolis because I was making so much Bloody Mary mix for other friends and family and some other restaurants and bars … I’ve been making that recipe for almost 15 years before I bottled it.”

It continues to sell locally. One of George’s first tastings was in 2012, at Mills Fine Wine & Spirits in Annapolis. Now the owners stock it and recommend it to out of town visitors.
“There’s so much competition for all the shelf space in here,” said Jerry Donahoe, who runs Mills Fine Wine with his wife. “I try to minimize the amount of products that don’t have alcohol … but the mix does well and it’s here to stay.”

David’s brand is not the only mix that has roots in Annapolis. Sandy Mazza, founder of Sandy Bottom Enterprises LLC, started bottling her rum-based cocktail in September 2010. It has been sold in stores in Maryland, Delaware, Florida, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Tennessee. The company produced more than 50,000 bottles and by spring of 2014, it sold through its inventory, Mazza said.

Since then, Mazza has been redesigning the packaging and applying for permits. New bottles are expected to launch this year. It’s difficult for a company selling an alcoholic beverage to redesign its product because it must obtain new label approvals. This process took eight months for Sandy Bottom, Mazza said.

“I can’t rush the government,” Mazza said. “It’s a process that you have to go through.”

George’s Bloody Mary Mix began with David talking to different bartenders. They all made drinks differently and customers didn’t have a consistent Bloody Mary mix to rely on, he said.
Once he crafted a recipe, he entered it into contests around the state. In 2006, it won the Ocean City Bloody Mary Contest and other restaurants around the state also entered the mix into contests. His girlfriend and her twin sister — Theda and Alex Bakis, respectively — convinced him to bottle the mix, he said.

Theda and Alex are now partners in the business, while David is the owner, CEO and president. The three spent the first two years researching trademarks, labeling and other aspects of selling the product. During this time, they all had full time jobs and didn’t feel rushed to start bottling.

Once they began bottling, Theda said they prioritized using natural ingredients, like fresh tomato puree and horseradish.

“We are the farm-to-table Bloody Mary mix,” Theda said. “We are basically the micro-brew of Bloody Mary, is our marketing plan right now.”

Until January, David worked at the Globe Restaurant in Berlin and Theda and Alex still work as hairdressers. However, George’s will soon become all of their full-time jobs with growth that has taken it from doing less than $100,000 to well over $1 million in sales, David said.

George’s is named after David’s father, because David grew up in his restaurants. David said he would never have been a bartender or involved in the restaurant industry without him.
His father died 13 years ago of cancer, one reason why the company aims to give back to charitable organizations. It had a Relay for Life Team, which is run through the American Cancer Society, and participates in other charitable functions.

“I believe that giving back is part of what you have to do, what you should do when you’re in business,” David said. “Anything that we can do as far as that goes is a really, really big deal to us.”

View Article by Ellie Silverman, Capital Gazette