A bloody mary born and bred in West Marin
Many married folks have had that moment. The moment when their spouse commits them to doing something before asking. But if you are Diane Mina, the partner and spouse of celebrity chef Michael Mina, the commitment can be more extreme. “My husband comes home and says, ‘You know that thing we do on the weekends for football games? Well, we are now doing it for the 49ers.”
“That thing” was a special family weekly tailgating event, where Michael made all the food and Diane made the Bloody Mary’s. And now she was doing it exclusively for the entire 49er’s organization.
Longtime Marin resident Diane Mina, 53, lived in Novato for ten years before moving to Nicasio in 2010. And it was on the three acres there that she began to make her Diane Mina’s Bloody Mary mix, starting with a step most premixed Bloodies completely overlook. She started by making the tomato juice itself.
“We got our backyard in Nicasio all certified and ready to grow,” she says. She then tried 13 different tomato varietals, growing them “long and strong” before narrowing it down to Heirloom tomatoes. “I wanted something different, something fresh.”
Tomato “juice” is not really juice at all; it is a cooked tomato sauce. “We are dealing with a fruit and its very different when you cook it,” Mina says.
Formulating her own process, she retained the skins and the meat, specifically retaining enough acidity to, “Hold onto the other ingredients without overwhelming them, because it is about the tomato for me.”
Mina is no stranger to the food industry. “My husband and I met 30 years ago; we were both at the Four Seasons/Clift Hotel. He was the executive pastry chef and I served high tea. He was in charge of making my scones, and we befriended each other because sometimes he was late making my scones.”
Teaming up together, and then in 2002 with then Marin resident Andre Agassi, the three formed the Mina Group which now operates 33+ restaurants across the globe, mainly through management contracts, including Michael Mina in San Francisco which has held up to two Michelin stars.
“My background is mostly hotels,” she says. “I worked in room service, as a general manager, in housekeeping. I totally fell in love with it, until I worked in the restaurant business.”
The more she started doing events: food design, trade shows, food shows, photography, etc., the more she realized that the restaurant business was where she wanted to be.
“When we launched Diane Mina’s Bloody Mary mix in 2014, I was making everything, this beautiful product, on my own, for my husband’s restaurant and the 49ers, and then, the blessing of William Sonoma comes along in 2016, and they say ‘This is the best Bloody Mary mix we’ve ever had.”
That blessing turned into a retail product that became William Sonoma’s best selling cocktail mixer for three years in a row, outselling their own brand and moving up to 100,000 SKU’s a year.
“It’s not rocket science,” she says. “The ingredients we chose are clean. It has anchovy free Worcestershire. It has Tabasco, I mean why in the world would you reinvent that? The olive brine is unique for the velvety texture, there’s a five peppercorn blend, Tajin, horseradish, it’s not off the stratosphere of the ingredients, but it is the process. It is product driven, but it is process.”
That Williams Sonoma contract was exclusive for the first three years, but now Diane Mina’s Bloody Mary mix is available throughout Northern California, including placement at Whole Foods Market.
“We aren’t reinventing the wheel,” she says. “We don’t need to be the first, we just need to be better, or the best.”
She admits that she was “freaked out” at first because she had never done anything like this before. But finally realized that it’s all about building relationships, both with purveyors and customers, and following the line of ingredients, just like in the restaurant business. Which is something she knows an awful lot about.
“It’s knowing your product, standing behind your product, having integrity, and bringing some tradition,” she says.
In May of this year, the Minas moved to Las Vegas (following partner Andre Agassi). “I don’t have the garden anymore,” she says. “But I am still the same person.”
Diane Mina’s Bloody Mary mix is $10.99 for 32 ounces, and comes in the original version, a spicy jalapeno version called “Dirty Diane’s” and as a Michelada mixer, specially formulated for mixing with beer.
“We are the best tasting freshest tasting product on the shelf today,” she says. “If you look at the sodium content, the caloric and sugar content, the clean ingredients. I hope people would agree.”
For more information: www.dianemina.net