Emily Griffen describes her background as bizarre, noting she is a former competitive Thai fighter who spent four years traveling the world competing in martial arts competitions before returning to her hometown of Grand Rapids and becoming an entrepreneur who makes bloody mary mixes.
“I moved out to California when I was 18 to go to college. When I got to Los Angeles I was looking for a different workout and I found this kickboxing class.
“The instructor was a retired fighter and she said ‘you’re really great at this, you should start competing,’ so I started fighting. I moved to Europe, then Asia and eventually returned to LA.”
After retiring from competitive fighting in early 2016, Griffen turned her attention to another passion of hers, bloody marys.
“Brewt’s (Bloody Mary) was kind of an accident. It was made in my kitchen,” she said. “It originally started not as a business idea, but because I’m a big bloody mary fan. Drinking a lot of bloody marys I realized there weren’t any healthy mixes on the market.”
She noted while bloody marys might seem like a healthier choice compared to other cocktail options, they often are filled with preservatives and sodium.
“I’ve also been a personal trainer and been involved in nutritional aspects of training for the last eight years, so I’m pretty health conscious,” Griffen said. “Drinking bloody marys, I realized every mix is filled with sodium and preservatives, and usually you could only drink one before you start to feel full and groggy.”
Griffen developed her own custom bloody mary mix and started bringing it to gatherings and making up batches whenever she had friends over. Pretty soon, word got out about her tasty concoction.
“The Wine, Beer and Food Festival (held every fall at DeVos Place) caught wind of it and they contacted me and said they’d love to have me. They didn’t have anything like this in the show. At that point I wasn’t even a legit business. They said if you can get everything together we’d love to have you.” At that point, Griffen set about turning her hobby into a full fledged business.
Brewt’s debuted at the Wine, Beer and Food Festival in November 2015 and received enough attention to attract a distributor for the product.
It’s currently sold in over 450 retail stores, bars and restaurants across Michigan’s upper and lower peninsula and is available online as well as at several special events in communities around the state.
It was also recently announced that Brewt’s will be available at Ford Field in Detroit during all of the Lion’s games this year.
Locally, you can find Brewt’s all over town. Griffen rattled off a list of places where her mix is available including, The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck, Rockwell/Republic, Grand Rapids Brewing Company, Brick & Porter, J Gardella’s Tavern, Stella’s, Gray Skies Distillery, and the Garage Bar & Grill.
It’s also carried in several retail stores including Crafts Beer Seller, Martha’s Vineyard, Art of the Table, Cherry Hill Market, Russo’s International Market, Kingma’s Market and Bourbon Street on Alpine as well as in all D&W and Family Fare locations.
Griffen said while the trend in many restaurants and bars has been to turn bloody marys into a complete meal with elaborate garnishes; she prefers hers as a classic cocktail.
“I am 100 percent convinced that I’ve put everything into the mix you need,” she said. “When bars and restaurants ask me about garnishes, I always recommend something simple and light like an olive.
“What I’m essentially trying to do is create more of a craft cocktail feel to the bloody mary, instead of a meal.”
She noted while bloody marys have gained a reputation as a Sunday brunch drink, in the past it wasn’t uncommon for someone to mix up a bloody mary after the workday. Griffen would like to see the bloody mary return to its place on evening cocktail menus.
Griffen said her goal is to bring Brewt’s to as many community events as she can manage so more people are introduced to the beverage. Long term, she would eventually like to see her mix sold across the country.
“I’d love to get it into the Chicago market and surrounding states, eventually, but I’m not in any rush right now,” she said.