Hot Tomato

by Steve Wilson

That kick in the palate from your bloody mary might be packing more than just tomato and spices. Most bloody mary mixes on the shelf come chock-full of sodium and preservatives, and maybe even some MSG for good measure. “They’re pretty nasty for you,” says Lauren Kelleher, founder of Lauren’s Garden. “They’re made to exist on the shelf for a year.”

Imagine Kelleher’s surprise when her Travis Heights neighbors—celebrating their annual garden tomato party—made her a version of the cocktail using fresh ingredients. “They would juice the tomatoes themselves to make the bloody marys,” she recalls. “I was so amazed by how light and refreshing and healthy it tasted.” Determined to bring that experience to the grocery store aisle, Kelleher left her job in marketing at Dripping Springs Vodka and bought an industrial-grade juicer (plus lots of tomatoes). With just the right addition of lemon and lime juices, pink Himalayan sea salt, ground celery seed, horseradish and other spices, she came up with the Southwest’s first all-natural, gluten-free bloody mary mix made from freshly juiced tomatoes.

Lauren’s Garden Fresh Squeezed Bloody Mary Mix stuffs a whopping three pounds of tomatoes (sourced locally most of the year and from Marfa in the winter) into each 1-liter bottle, and with a little pressurization to destroy bacteria, the mix can survive refrigerated for up to eight weeks. Since launching in October, Lauren’s Garden has found its way into Friends & Neighbors on East Cesar Chavez, Wahoo’s Fish Taco on South Congress, Farmhouse Delivery, Whole Foods Market and five farmers markets: Lone Star Farmers Market in Bee Cave, Texas Farmers’ Market (TFM) at Mueller, TFM at Lakeline, TFM at Domain and Barton Creek Farmers Market. And now, Kelleher—who can wax easily about “deep, warm, earthy flavors” and “sweet roundness” like the wisest sommelier—has crafted new mixes beyond the original flavor. She’s thrown in freshly juiced serrano peppers in one version, and has a new batch in the works for this summer that will blend oranges and jalapeños. “A little like a sangrita,” she says. But perhaps it’s her recent habanero edition, the spiciest of all, that proves she knows her local market all too well. “Texans really like a lot of heat and spice,” she says. —Steve Wilson

For more information, visit laurensgardenmix.com