Bold N Spicy
by Kathleen Curry
The last decade has been a true Renaissance for the beer, wine and spirits industry here in Charleston. Charleston Beverage Company’s Charleston Mix aims to add to the locally made repertoire with their Bold n’ Spicy Bloody Mary Mix. And they are off to a rousing start—Bold n’ Spicy is barely 2 years old and already a hit among local bartenders and an honoree of Garden & Gun Magazine’s 2011 Made in the South (MITS) awards. In the words of Sean Brock, a past James Beard recipient and a MITS 2011 judge, “As soon as I tasted the mix, I could taste the hard work that went into developing the flavor. . .it’s no easy feat. He nailed it.”
Ryan Eleuteri , founder and president, doesn’t take all the credit for Bold n’ Spicy’s meteoric rise on the bar scene. He advocates that being a part of Lowcountry Local First and its associate businesses have made all the difference in his product’s impressive debut. Before they were even bottled, they were featured at the Charleston Food and Wine (F+W) Festival's Sunday Gospel Brunch. Next they were featured on the menu at Magnolia's, and then they joined Pearlstine Distributors network. ‘Fast forward a couple years, and they’ve just finished their third F+W Gospel Brunch, received a Made in the South award, and their hottest customers are in the Big Apple. Yes, you read that right, the first American city to make the Bloody Mary famous is one of the biggest customers of a local Bloody Mary Mix these days.
Bold n’ Spicy is available at the big events happening this weekend, both the 35th Cooper River Bridge Run and the Family Circle Cup. There is a Bloody Mary Throwdown immediately after the Bridge Run 360 Concord St at the Hippodrome; on the 7th, they will be featured at the Lowcountry Local First All You Should Eat Breakfast at Butcher & Bee on King Street, on the 14th, they will be at the Charleston Mix Brunch at Coleman Public House in On Coleman Blvd (MP). Recently they were also a part of Fashion Week events.
Inclusion in these major local events would not be possible without the effort of local creatives at Obviouslee Marketing and Hook. Eleuteri says that working with local firms is a big asset to his operations. It is remarkable to be able to drop by and speak with someone in person without planes, screens, or a lot of phone tag, and he would place the creativity and local insight Charleston Mix has received from Obviouslee and Hook right on par with huge firms in larger cities.
The product itself uses naturally-sourced local and regional ingredients for perfect flavor, including South Carolina grown tomatoes, Louisiana habaneros, and Apple Cider Vinegar from the Upstate. These and the other ingredients are blended and heated in a kettle, bottled and boxed in a Hanahan-North Charleston facility.
‘Where did it all start? Just a few years ago, Eleuteri, a Philly transplant and a CofC alumnus, was craving brunch's favorite beverage one weekend morning. The supermarket was all out of the leading brand; what was left was slightly better than vegetable juice. He brought it home, mixed it up, and was sorely disappointed with the results. However, it sparked some questions (a) for all the Bloody Mary's recognition and popularity, one mix had a lock on the market, why was that? (b) why can't I create a new brand that delivers something more? A ‘near effortless, bottle-to-glass Bloody Mary experience? The product started out sweeter, but was fine-tuned over time; input from bartenders and festival-goers brought it to its current award-winning concoction. Eleuteri notes bartenders are the toughest audience to appeal to, so once you have won over their tastebuds, you know you’ve achieved something monumental.
He says the Charleston Mix ideal Bloody Mary recipe is Bold n’ Spicy, Vodka, Old Bay seasoning on the rim, and garnished with a local shrimp and a pickled okra. The Ideal brunch to accompany a Bold n’ Spicy Bloody Mary is Eggs Benedict topped with hollandaise, with hash browns on the side. For an awesome Bloody Mary, excellent food, service and ambience, he recommends The MacIntosh.
Bold n’ Spicy has other possibilities outside cocktails. Eleuteri says some friends back home used it to marinate a chicken with phenomenal results. Yours truly thinks it would be awesome in huevos rancheros, shrimp creole, fish taco sauce, catfish stew and guacamole (try it in any dish that uses tomatoes, but could use an additional blend of spices and a lasting kick of habanero. )
Eleuteri says his entrepreneurial road has been a tough but incredibly awarding journey that wasn’t built overnight—“the juice is worth the squeeze”. As proven by his own success, a lot of local talent and insight create a remarkable product.
Right now, Bold n' Spicy does not contain alcohol, so it is not sold in ABC stores. It is sold in major chain supermarkets, Total Wine, Bottles, Charleston Cooks! and Gina’s Gourmet. It is also available on the company website, charlestonmix.com. Brand expansion will happen down the road, but right now Eleuteri says they are focused on growing Bold n’ Spicy for statewide, then nationwide distribution.
When life gives you a lame Bloody Mary, make a business opportunity.
Kathleen Curry is a Lowcountry native an alumni of C of C, Carolina and Greenville Tech. In addition to contributing to Eat This! , Curry has a blog at bakingkookys.com; she is on twitter @BakingKookys and @ Currying_Favor.