Annapolis bartender Greg David spent nearly two years perfecting his signature Bloody Mary mix. Two decades ago, the then-Towson University student worked nights and weekends as a bartender at Middleton Tavern on the Annapolis waterfront. After noticing a need to revive the bar’s cocktail menu, he started to do some research.
“I started going around to bars in D.C., Baltimore, and Annapolis and asked what they were putting into their mixes,” says David, 41, CEO and president of George’s Mixes. “Then I put a recipe together for brunch one day and it was pretty darn good.”
The feedback from Middleton’s brunch crowd had a significant impact on what would later become an award-winning mix, widely distributed throughout the region.
“Every Sunday I’d change the recipe a little bit,” David recalls. “And, about two years after I first started messing around with it, a guest said, ‘Keep that recipe, that’s the one.’”
That very blend was the impetus for George’s Mixes, David’s now four-year-old startup that is expanding rapidly throughout the region. George’s bottled Bloody Mary mixes (which come in both spicy and mild variations) are sold at more than 2,000 local bars, grocery stores, music festivals, and sporting events, and the company is preparing to launch its own margarita mix this summer.
Since its official launch in 2013, George’s has partnered with big-name sellers like Giant Foods, M&T Bank Stadium, and Pimlico Race Course, which will feature the mix at all of its bars for the fourth consecutive year at the upcoming Preakness Stakes on May 21.
“Classic drinks are synonymous with an event like Preakness,” David says. “The day starts early, and people don’t want a beer or a Jack on the rocks at 10 in the morning. They want something that can wake up their taste buds and really complement their breakfast.”
Other than the fact that nothing (aside from alcohol) needs to be added in, David says the thing that what sets the mix apart is its all-natural ingredients: fresh horseradish, tomato puree, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and lemon juice. The recipe is what got David first place in Seacrets’ first annual Bloody Mary contest back in 2006.
“We didn’t re-invent the wheel. We just use the freshest ingredients around,” he says. “The Worcestershire sauce isn’t some crap with corn syrup and food coloring, and we use real tomatoes and real lemon juice. Other people in the market were too scared to do it, but we weren’t because we had been serving it for so many years and we knew people wanted it.”
Looking ahead, David is excited to launch George’s Margarita Mix, which is expected to hit shelves by Memorial Day Weekend. In keeping with the company’s philosophy, the drink fuses natural ingredients like lime juice, orange juice, and agave nectar, and is only 80 calories per serving.
David notes that he’s happy to have built George’s—which is named after his late father who passed away 14 years ago of cancer—at a time where other regional food startups, like Tessemae’s All-Natural, are also gaining traction.
“This area is becoming a great hub for entrepreneurship,” he says. “All you have to do is drive around the beltway and you see so many billion-dollar local businesses. It kind of makes you look at them all and say ‘If they can, I can.’”