The thought of drinking tomato juice is a stomach-turner for me, so when I had the chance to sample Urban Legend Bloody Mary Mix, I instantly reverted to “Green Eggs and Ham” mode.
“I do not like it, here or there. Not in a car, not in a bar,” I thought to myself Seusically.
But since I wanted to write about the mix from a local-guy-develops-cool-new-product perspective, I felt I needed to at least have a sip.
So I did, very hesitatingly.
Then I had another.
The Urban Legend Bloody Mary Mix was pretty darn good; nice and spicy, like a little bit of southwest sunshine in your mouth.
Frankly, my liking anything made from tomato juice surprised me.
But not Steve Brancheau, the man behind the mix.
Like me, his wife is no fan of tomato juice, “but she loves Urban Legend,” he said.
For 15 years, Brancheau has been making his Bloody Mary mix in his home to give to family and friends, and he’s tweaked and refined the recipe along the way.
The story is that a bartender from the old country slipped the original recipe to one of Brancheau’s ancestors. It’s that basic recipe that Brancheau has transformed through trial and error with the addition of various modern-day spices and ingredients into Urban Legend.
When he finally got the recipe exactly to his liking five years ago, Brancheau gave a quart to a friend he describes as a “big Bloody Mary guy” who made his own mix.
After trying Brancheau’s mix, that guy quit making his own and ensures that he has a steady supply of Urban Legend on hand.
Urban Legend Bloody Mary Mix made its public debut this past summer at the Iron Chef competition for Gleaner’s Community Food Bank. It’s a huge fund-raising event that features food products for tasting, in addition to the centerpiece chef-off. Brancheau loved the exposure Urban Legend mix received at the event, even though it was not available for purchase.
It’s a spicy mix, for sure, one that “speaks for itself,” Brancheau said. Its heat comes not from hot sauce, but from a careful blend of select spices and flavors, including peppers and garlic.
The mix, Brancheau said, is also a great marinade for chicken, pork and beef.
This is the first big business venture for Brancheau, a sales rep for a valve manufacturing company.
Bloody Mary mixes are the fastest-growing and most-competitive market segments, Brancheau said, and so confident is he in the quality of Urban Legend that he encourages people to do what he calls the “straight up” challenge.
“Take your favorite Bloody Mary mix and pour it over ice,” is what he tells folks. “Then do the same with Urban Legend.”
So far, Urban Legend has consistently come out on top.
The inspiration for the name Urban Legend Bloody Mary Mix came to Brancheau when he awoke once at 2 a.m.
“There it was,” Brancheau said. “The name and the tagline.”
The name, of course, was Urban Legend Bloody Mary Mix.
The Made-in-Michigan product will be available to Bloody Mary enthusiasts by Christmas for $6.95 a quart at select wine and gourmet shops, and through direct sales.