Cirino’s Bloody Mary Mix heats up with new distribution deal | TheUnion.com

Cirino’s Bloody Mary Mix heats up with new distribution deal

Lorraine Jewett
Special to The Union

Cirino's Bloody Mary Mix — a Nevada County favorite — is poised to become the magical mix of Northern California.

Jerry Cirino has signed a distribution deal with Mussetter Distributing of Auburn which will ultimately see his Bloody Mary mix in stores, bars, and restaurants in eight counties stretching from Nevada County to the Bay Area.

A sales team of 14 people will be charged with convincing retail outlets of the veracity of the bottle's slogan: "It'll change your life!

The mix has certainly changed the life of Jerry Cirino, who invented it in 1983 at his namesake restaurant and bar in Nevada City.

“People would come in periodically and ask to buy a bottle. We’d wash out an empty vodka bottle, fill it with the mix, put a masking tape label around it, and put it in a paper bag. People would slink out to their car as if they’d bought something on the black market.”Jerry Cirino

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"Some people who had been out partying came in and asked for Bloody Marys for their hangovers. It was a Saturday morning and I was bartending all alone. I didn't know how to prepare a Bloody Mary," recalled Cirino.

"Being Italian, I knew how to deal with tomato sauce. I put together a concoction and served the customers," he said. "There was silence. I was worried they thought the drinks were terrible but then it was, 'Wow, this is really good!' and even 'This is worth my hangover!' I never changed the recipe."

The problem came when Cirino's bartenders tried to follow that original recipe.

"It was too complex and the drinks were inconsistent," Cirino admitted. "So I developed the mix so my bartenders would pour a consistent Bloody Mary."

Over the years, talk of the special sauce rippled through the community.

"People would come in periodically and ask to buy a bottle. We'd wash out an empty vodka bottle, fill it with the mix, put a masking tape label around it, and put it in a paper bag. People would slink out to their car as if they'd bought something on the black market," laughed Cirino.

Cirino's Bloody Mary Mix might never have been ready for prime time if Cirino hadn't purchased a new computerized point-of-sale system when he opened Cirino's at Main Street in Grass Valley in 2003. The sales data surprised him.

"I noticed how many Bloody Mary Mixes these crazy Nevada County people were buying!" exclaimed Cirino. "My wife Donna is a graphic artist, and she came up with the label and logo."

With very little advertising other than a website, the popularity of Cirino's Bloody Mary Mix skyrocketed.

"We sold 17,549 Bloody Mary drinks last year here at the restaurant and bar."

The mix is now shipped to 45 states and five countries, including France, Germany, England, Mexico and Canada. In France, they're even cooking with it.

"We Italians taught the French how to cook and we're doing it again," quipped Cirino. His next step is to produce a video explaining how best to cook with his mix.

Kamara Lefler of Grass Valley dropped by the bar last week to pick up a bottle.

"I've turned so many people on to it. I bring bottles every time I visit friends and family in Oregon. It's so addicting!" exclaimed Lefler.

She's not alone.

"We had a guy call us last month from Minneapolis. He had family coming in and forgot to order the mix. He paid $61.60 in expedited shipping for one bottle because he needed it overnight. He said it was worth it; that he had to have it," recounted Cirino.

Jon Asbell, a bartender at Cirino's at Main Street, recalled one Saturday morning when he could barely keep up with Bloody Mary orders.

"From the moment I opened the bar, guests at both the bar and restaurant were ordering Bloody Marys," he said. "I made 33 of them in a row before I made any other type of drink."

Cirino said he knows what makes his blend a staple of every well-stocked refrigerator.

"It's a concentrate. There is no tomato juice in it. The customer adds the juice, and as an option you can add an adult beverage. The flavor is the result of a culinary balance between the acid and the sugar. It's the chemistry of a perfect blend of ingredients," Cirino explained. "It's sweet, it's spicy, and it's balanced."

While he doesn't want to divulge the number of cases he sells annually, Cirino said the numbers add up.

"Consider what we sold in Nevada County with a population of 89,000," he said. "Our new distribution region boasts just under 3 million people."

Cirino, who has been in the hospitality industry for 33 years, said he has enjoyed his career in part because he's been able to share it with his sons, Ryan and Tucker. Tucker has helped manage Cirino's at Main Street for 13 years, and he'll take even more of a lead role when his father sails off into the sunset — literally.

"I have a 40-foot sailboat in Mexico named Savannah Rose. I'm setting up this business to work remotely, and Donna and I are going to live on the boat. It has solar panels, can make fresh water from sea water, and store enough food for a month," said Cirino.

He concluded: "I don't want to quit what I'm doing, because I'm doing this with my family. The reason for this success is Donna, Tucker, Ryan, and Jerry. We've done this whole thing together."

Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. She can be reached at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.

BUSINESS BASICS:

Cirino’s Blood Mary Mix

$19.95 per bottle (32 drinks)

CirinosBMM.com

Phone: 530-272-MARY