Justin Johnston, of Hilton Head Island, admits he never used to like the taste of bloody marys.
But as a bartender for nearly a dozen bars and restaurants on the Island, Johnston grew accustomed to making the cocktail and wound up creating an entire business devoted to it.
"Listening to consumers say they wanted something local, I started to do some research and saw that this could be an opportunity," he said.
To start, Johnston recruited a friend to be his designated "bloody mary taste tester", then he began serving customers his new creations. "That's how I met everybody and how I grew my brand was behind the bar," he said.
Each week, he crafted a new version of the bloody mary and kept a small notebook full of notes with the feedback he received.
Although his friends quickly got sick of drinking bloody marys, he continued full steam ahead.
About 11 years ago, Johnston founded Your Mom's Kitchen Bloody Mary Mix, which was sold online and at bars, liquor shops and grocery stores throughout South Carolina, Indiana and Ohio.
At that time, Johnston said he was working seven days a week as a bartender, in addition to trying to expand his brand.
"It was tough, because I was trying to do it all on my own," he said. "Eventually I got it into Indiana and Ohio, but I just had no money and backing behind me."
Johnston was turned down by more than 100 investors, but seeing potential down the road, he wasn't ready to give up on "his baby", he said.
"I tried to find investors year after year and finally, when I stopped looking for them, they just popped up," Johnston said.
The interested investors "popped up" a year ago to the date at the 2017 RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing.
After tasting Johnston's product and seeing it sold across the course of Harbour Town Golf Links, the investors soon jumped on board.
Once the investors were secured and a marketing firm was hired, Johnston's new team spent about eight months revamping his brand and transforming the company's name, label and ingredients.
The company's name, which started as "Your Mom's Kitchen Bloody Mary Mix", was switched to "Bloody Point Mixing Co."
While Bloody Point Mixing Co. is a play on the word "bloody", it actually gets its namesake from the southern tip of Daufuskie Island, where historic battles between colonists and native Americans once took place.
"We want to support local stuf,f and it just seemed to fit," Johnston said about the new company name. "The story behind it is interesting, and it's exciting to really have that connection to the Lowcountry."
Although the recipe for Bloody Point is nearly identical to Johnston's original, the ingredients were replaced with their all-natural counterparts. Unlike many bloody mary mixes, Bloody Point has no added MSG, preservatives or gluten.
"My original mix, Your Mom's Kitchen Bloody Mary, never lost a blind taste test before, and now we've made it even better," Johnston said. "We took all the preservatives out of it and upgraded a few other things, so now it actually drinks smoother."
The first order of Johnston's rebranded Bloody Point mixes came in about a week and a half before its launch on the first official day of the 2018 RBC Heritage on April 12.
"We've got zero bad feedback," Johnston said on Friday, the day after the launch. "It's amazing, the response has been so crazy. We didn't know what to expect, but it has definitely exceeded our expectations."
Steve and Nicole Suja, of Cleveland, said they first tried Johnston's original "Your Mom's Kitchen Bloody Mary Mix" a few years ago at Casey's Sports Bar & Grill on Hilton Head.
The couple liked it so much, they went back to get a bloody mary at Casey's a second time, asked the bartender where they could buy a mix and picked up a bottle before leaving town.
"Its better than pretty much any one (bloody mary mix) I've ever tasted," Steve said. "That's why we liked it."
The Sujas, who said they didn't realize it was the same product when they approached the Bloody Point tent, said they planned to pick up a bottle before leaving the tournament on Friday.
And, after more than 11 years in the business, Johnston has ditched his bartender gigs to focus solely on his mixing business. And, for those wondering, he has finally acquired a taste —or more so —a love for the bloody mary.
Where can you buy it?
Bloody Point Mixing Co. is currently selling three flavors— The Original, The Coastal Mary (infused with clam juice) and the Remedy (which includes Caffeine and B-12 ingredients).
RBC Heritage attendees can buy bottles of the mix for $12 at the Bloody Point Mixing Company Tasting Tent on the Heritage Lawn between the 16th and 17th Hole. And for those interested in sipping on a bloody mary as they walk the course, the mix is being used for the cocktail at Tito's Distilled Lounge, as well as all throughout The Sea Pines Resort.
Johnston said stores across Hilton Head will start stocking the mix next week.