Six years ago, Todd Brutcher started selling his wildly popular sangria in frozen mix form and received such a great response, he was eventually able to quit bartending to go all-in on his drink mixers brand, Southside Alchemy. Now, Brutcher is building upon his creation with his new shelf-stable sangria offerings, which will make the drink available to a much broader audience.
"Getting the sangria mix shelf-stable was the next logical step," Brutcher explained in a press release announcing the new product. "I'd get emails and DMs from people in St. Charles, West County and Chesterfield asking what stores the mix was in because they couldn't make it to the farmers market. Now, I can focus on getting it in stores."
Brutcher's road to sangria greatness began twelve years ago, when he developed a cult following for the boozy beverage as a bartender at Onesto Pizza & Trattoria. When he arrived, the bar was serving sangria, but it was just the typical mix of fruit soaked in wine with a little sugar. The chef and owner was the one in charge of making the mix, but he eventually passed it on to his servers and bartenders; whoever had the time would make it, so there wasn't much consistency to the product.
When Brutcher's friend Jen came on staff, she took over the task of making Onesto's sangria, and the extra care she put into it paid off in a far superior product. Her secret was to cook the fruit before she soaked it to bring out bigger, juicier flavors. People took notice, and the sangria became one of the restaurant's most popular drinks — so popular, that when Brutcher found out at the last minute that Jen would not be able to make it one night, he panicked.
"Jen was going over to work at Mad Tomato, and I thought I had her one more day," Brutcher recalls. "I needed her to make the sangria, and when I found out she was already gone, I didn't know what to do. I panicked and stuck a bunch of measuring cups into sugar with no idea what I was doing. I didn't know how much wine or sugar she added, but I knew that she cooked the fruit, so I followed what I remembered from watching her and came up with my own recipe for it. People really responded."
Brutcher, who credits Jen as the catalyst and inspiration for his mix, became so well-known for both his sangria and Bloody Marys at Onesto that his regulars would often ask him if he would ever consider bottling and selling them. While working a subsequent job at the Copper Pig, he began playing around with that idea when a coworker offered him the opportunity to start selling his wares at a pop-up winter market.
He was so amazed at the response he got to both his sangria (which he was selling frozen at the time) and Bloody Mary Mix that he decided to make his business official. After a few years of hard work, he officially launched his company, Southside Alchemy, in 2019.
Since then, Brutcher has enjoyed great success by selling his products at area farmers markets, pop-up shops and a handful of specialty stores around town. He's even received numerous accolades for his mixes, including gold medal awards for his Bloody Mary mix at an international Bloody Mary competition. However, now that he has found a way to make his sangria mix shelf-stable, he feels that he is on the cusp of taking his business to the next level.
Brutcher hopes that the two-year shelf life of his sangria mix will allow him to begin selling more broadly in stores; currently, the product is available at Edibles & Essentials, Southside Wine & Spirits and LeGrand's. He is also in talks with Craft Republic and Fox River Dairy, two distributors, that will help him get the mix in more stores, which will expand his reach. For now, he is currently offering only the Paradise Plum mix, but he is getting ready to launch Raspberry-Mango soon and plans to have more flavors added to the mix as soon as he has the capacity to do so.
As for how to enjoy the Paradise Plum mix, Brutcher suggests putting the entire jar into a large carafe, then filling it with an entire 750ml bottle of wine. Though he encourages people to be creative, he's found that Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc work best for white wine enthusiasts, while those who want to drink red wine should stick with something light, like a Pinot Noir.
"Honestly, if it was me, I'd just add Franzia, because it changes the taste of the wine anyway," Brutcher says. "Any bottle over ten dollars is wasting your money."
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