When A Chef Walks Into A Bar You Get… Cirino’s Bloody Mary Mix!

Jerry Cirino went to work at a very young age in life and hasn’t stopped…

He started out by working at a bakery and also restaurants. He was in elementary school at the time, and did all of this to “help with the finances of the family.”

Cirino was in the seventh grade when he moved in 1956 to Grass Valley, a city that sits at 2,500-foot elevation and is located in Nevada County. He spent three straight summers, starting when he was 15, working in sawmills in the area.

“I was fortunate to have been taught by older men, World War II vets,” said Cirino. “They had a different discipline, when it came to work and commitment to families. That laid the foundation. I was taught to keep my mouth shut and listen, to respect older people. These men taught me different crafts.”

Cirino is an explosives contractor, a mining contractor, and a building contractor.

“I learned my crafts from being polite to older people,” he said. “They were good enough to teach me things.

“It was just a way of life up here, because when the mines closed, the only industry up here was the timber. There were like eight mills right around and in Grass Valley at the time. You didn’t have to walk very far to go to work. There was no other economy.”

Cirino, a 1964 Nevada Union High School graduate, played baseball and was on the track and field team for the Miners. He was not able to play for the famed Nevada Union football program, however, as he needed to work.

“I didn’t play football, because I come from a really large family and the commitment for football was too much. I had to work,” he said.

Cirino took on additional work, as he got into the restaurant business. He and his family – his wife, Donna, and their sons, Tucker and Ryan – had Cirino’s Bar and Grill in Nevada City for 30 years. It opened in 1983.

“I was chef and I ran it with my wife and sons,” said Jerry Cirino.

It was at Cirino’s Bar and Grill in ’83 where Cirino’s Bloody Mary Mix – a very popular product that is available for purchase in 32-ounce bottles – was founded by Jerry Cirino.

“When I first opened in 1983, I did not know what a Bloody Mary was. This is the honest truth. I had never had a Bloody Mary,” said Cirino.

“When I opened one day, a group of 12 people came in, and I knew all of them. It’s a small town. You know everybody. They came in and they had been partying and they all wanted Bloody Marys. My bartender had gone home for an emergency. We had just started. We didn’t have much of a business at all. They all wanted Bloody Marys. I went, ‘Oh, my god.’ Having cooked all my life – and it’s a tomato product – I put something together. I was behind the bar and I was just sweating bullets. I put it out there and I made it look nice.

“All of a sudden, there was just silence. I would not put my head up. I just kept washing dishes.”

In recalling the moment, Cirino told himself: “Oh my god, I’m out of here. There goes my reputation. What am I going to do? I just ruined everything right now with this Bloody Mary.”

Instead, he got a different response – a very positive reaction – from the group.

“They just said that’s the best Bloody Mary they’ve ever had in their lives. I went, ‘Oh, man.’ I made a mix. It was so complex. I went at it as a chef and not a bartender. I’ve been making sauces all my life, as a kid, helping cook at home and things like that.

“What I did is I duplicated the recipe for my bartenders.” Cirino’s Bloody Mary Mix is available in the Grass Valley and Nevada County area, at Safeway and Save Mart Supermarkets, at area retail stores, Nugget Markets, and is also available at the golf courses in Sacramento that are managed by Morton Golf Management – Alister MacKenzie Golf Course and Arcade

Creek Course at the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex, William Land Golf Course, Bing Maloney Golf Complex, and Bartley Cavanaugh Golf Course.

Cirino’s Bloody Mary Mix

The product was originally made for bartending at the restaurant, Cirino’s Bar and Grill in Nevada City.

“It’s very bartender friendly,” said Cirino.

Cirino’s Bloody Mary Mix has a website, cirinosbmm.com. On its home page, Cirino’s says:

“We combine our old-world family recipe with the freshest ingredients from local farms and suppliers using a patented cold-filter process.

“The result?

“A bottle that captures the made-from-scratch flavor of our family’s famous handcrafted Bloody Marys … And keeps it fresh for 3 years.”

Cirino’s Bloody Mary Mix is concentrated, as it does not include tomato juice, according to the website.

To make the drink, you use an ounce of Cirino’s Bloody Mary Mix and add an ounce of vodka and four ounces of fresh tomato juice to a glass that is filled with ice.

“We are in the flavor business. That’s what we are,” said Cirino. “This Bloody Mary is different than all Bloody Marys on the market. I have not found one that is the same. For this reason – it does not contain tomato juice. It is not the only concentrate on the market, but it is the only concentrate that is developed to retain fresh flavor.

“Science and the chemistry came together and allowed us to produce this fresh tasting item that is shelf stable. This is a must-taste item. There’s no doubt about it.”

Cirino said it was six years ago that the Cirino’s Bloody Mary Mix product was commercially marketed. The distributor for Cirino’s Bloody Mary Mix is Mussetter Distributing of Auburn.

Cirino’s Bloody Mary Mix is produced in Grass Valley, at the restaurant that Cirino owns, Cirino’s at Main Street. Jerry Cirino is the administrative officer and Tucker Cirino is the operations officer at the restaurant, which is temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jerry Cirino is the CEO of Cirino’s Bloody Mary Mix.

“We’re definitely growing,” said Jerry Cirino. “My grandkids have even helped out with the production sometimes.”

The bottle’s label, designed by Donna Cirino, a graphic art student, has a saying: “It’ll change your life!”

“It grew into a cult in a matter of a few years,” said Jerry Cirino. “Cirino’s became a phenomenon in Nevada City. We just started selling Bloody Marys like crazy.

“This thing just grew like crazy. We know how to balance flavors, to make it kind to your palate. It’s a long lasting flavor. People have fallen in love with this Bloody Mary.

“Anyone can mix this drink and have it successfully consistent. And that’s what it was designed for.”

The product can also be used for cooking.

“As a matter of fact, people cook with it, because of those fresh flavors that we’ve been able to retain with this process,” said Jerry Cirino. “This is a killer to cook with. It is so food friendly.”

On its website, cirinosbmm.com, Cirino’s Bloody Mary Mix points out:

“… We use a patented, old-world cold filtration process. The result?

“A 3-year shelf life using all-natural, fresh ingredients. So you’re guaranteed full flavor from the first drop to the last.”

Marketing product to golf courses

Cirino’s Bloody Mary Mix is available at Sacramento-area golf courses. The product features a golf label.

The product is ideal for the golf industry, said Jerry Cirino.

“We market this to golf courses,” he said. “The golf industry is our future. And that’s what we’re focusing on heavily. It’s a big seller in the golf course industry. Golfers like to have the best.”

For more information

To purchase Cirino’s Bloody Mary Mix, or for more information, call 530-272-MARY (6279), or go to the website, cirinosbmm.com.

The website lists “Cirino’s family recipes” for cooking purposes.

Marty James is a freelance writer who makes his home in Napa. He retired on June 4, 2019, after spending 40 years as a sports writer, sports editor and executive sports editor for the Napa Valley Register, a daily newspaper in Napa County. He is a 1979 graduate of Sacramento State and a member of the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association. He was inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2016.


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