MIXING IT UP
Smokin' Mary offers a new spin on an old favorite.
WRITTEN BY LAURA PETERSEN
PHOTOS COURTESY OF LAURIE NADEAU
Laurie Nadeau, owner of Smokin’ Mary Smoked Bloody
Few people know Laurie Nadeau by her real name.
“I don’t think anyone knows my name anymore,” Nadeau says. “I’m Smokin’ Mary.”
Nadeau is the owner of Smokin’ Mary Smoked Bloody Mary Mix. And she may be all dolled up in her signature red-and-white polka-dot dresses, but don’t let the pinup girl persona fool you. Nadeau is a savvy, successful businesswoman, and major players from the food-and-beverage world are taking notice.
She and her husband of 14 years, Marc, pour about 500 to 1,000 samples of the competition-winning concoction at the 45 or so food-and-beverage shows they attend each year.
“My satisfaction comes from the people,” Nadeau says.
She enjoys watching the reactions people have when they taste her Bloody Marys for the first time. To her, it’s more exciting than the dozens of competitions she has won.
It all started several years ago, when she was living in Park City, Utah, managing a pharmaceutical company and working as a real estate agent. No longer feeling inspired by her corporate career, she received an invitation from a friend who owned a greenhouse tomato farm to help out at the local farmers’ markets several days a week.
Soon, a bountiful season at the farm filled Nadeau’s kitchen with bags and bags of tomatoes. After stockpiling in her own and her neighbor’s freezers, she learned to can sauces, salsa, and everything tomato-based she could think of. But, alas, there always were more tomatoes. That’s when a friend suggested making Bloody Mary mix.
Nadeau began looking online for recipes. The first recipe had four ingredients, but it quickly grew to 16 when Nadeau put her spin on it. She loaded every burner on the stove with pots to test different recipes, obsessed with finding the one. She wanted to find a way to keep the flavor from becoming watered down when the ice melted. The answer? Use whole, crushed, fresh tomatoes instead of tomato juice. Five years and 16 revisions later, she hit upon the winning recipe.
“We use fresh tomatoes, fresh lemon and lime juices, fresh horseradish, and lots of spices. The smoke is an all-natural hickory smoke that is created for us out of Tennessee,” she says.
Soon she developed recipes that would satisfy a broader range of tastes beyond the traditional vodka-based cocktail, creating recipes using different spirits such as tequila, rum, whiskey, bourbon, gin, mezcal, and even a red beer drink called michelada.
Plus, her website features more than 30 food recipes, including Smokin’ Mary Ginger Glazed Fried Chicken and Smokin’ Oysters on the Half Shell.
Nadeau buys 20,000 pounds of tomatoes each year from farmers in the Central Valley and ships them to three processing facilities in Auburn, Calif., as well as Texas and North Carolina.
Moving forward, Nadeau has her sights set on getting Smokin’ Mary into high-end establishments such as resort brunch bars, where it’s all about creating an experience people will remember.
“I want to be in The Ritz-Carltons, the Hiltons, and the cruise ships,” she says. “I want to get in establishments that serve up an experience, not just a cocktail.”
Find Smokin’ Mary Smoked Bloody Mary Mix online and at all Greater Sacramento area Total Wine & More stores, Corti Brothers in Sacramento, Ikeda’s in Auburn, and more. For details, visit Smokinmary.com or find Smokin’ Mary on Facebook.
Laura Petersen is a freelance writer from Nevada City who has written extensively about local food and farming in Northern California for nearly two decades. She can be reached through Laurapetersenmedia.com.