It sounds like a great idea. You’ll make scratch margaritas with all-natural ingredients for your friends when they come over. About 20 minutes into the prep work needed for that you begin to realize why professional bartenders make things look so easy. It’s because they are professionals. That same thought occurred to longtime Mill Valley resident Carey Clahan.
“Occasionally I still wanted a good drink, but something that comes with motherhood, is that you just don’t have the time for all that stuff.”
The mother of three boys, who worked for years in the restaurant business, as a cocktail waitress, cocktail manager, and restaurant manager at spots like Johnny Love’s in San Francisco says she found going out for drinks too onerous and pre-bottled cocktails to be distasteful.
“It’s so easy to get a margarita wrong, you can spend a lot of money on ingredients, and if one thing’s wrong it just throws the whole thing. We were both Moms and were looking for an easy way out.”
Clahan and her longtime friend, fellow Marinite Sydney Rainin-Smith decided to do something about it.
“We love margaritas,” she says. “But all the premade products out there were super syrupy sweet and not very high quality. Someone had to get this right at some point,” she says.
“So, we decided to do ourselves, the Northern California way, with premium ingredients and organic agave. The way we would want it made for us, or the way we would make it ourselves if we had the time.”
The two formulated a business plan based on their own tastes and personal experience and in 2012 started Laughing Glass Cocktails. They found a distilleria in the town of Tequila, in Jalisco, that made a blanco tequila that met their standards. “We found the best quality tequila that is available to us by law,” says Clahan. Mixing it with all-natural flavors, filtered water, and a small amount of citric acid (as required by law), the two women created their own pre-bottled margarita, not a mix, but a complete cocktail. The two women also ran into some of the arcana of the liquor industry.
“There is no triple sec in our margaritas. We are required by law to put the words ‘triple sec’ on our bottles’ label. If it says margarita on the bottle, it must have triple sec on the label.
That’s not our rule, that is the law.”
Laughing Glass is bottled at 12% alcohol, which puts it on par with many European wines, (think pinot grigio) but is still, according to the law, a full liquor product. Being slightly lower in proof also makes it lower in calories too.
“Our margarita is a little more like a bar/restaurant margarita, with a little less booze, not no sweet at all, like a skinny margarita, because we like it a tiny bit sweet. People think they want a skinny margarita but when they get one and it has no sweetener in it at all, well that is not what they are expecting.”
Laughing Glass now produces three versions, their classic margarita, a pomegranate margarita and a “Firecracker” margarita which all retail for about $14 (or about $1 a drink). Clahan sees the new flavors as natural extensions. “In the Fall and Winter, we saw a dip in sales, because as much as we want people to drink margaritas at Thanksgiving, they just don’t.” The pomegranate combined the classic margarita with a Winter/Fall flavor, and the “Firecracker” was originally produced, on request, as a Whole Foods Market exclusive.
“Whole Foods was one of our first accounts. They came to us and asked us to develop a product for their customers. Their favorite, and the one they thought would work best for them was our spicy ancho chile and pineapple margarita,” says Clahan.
Today the San Anselmo based company produces 5,000 cases annually, with the “classic margarita” outselling both the other two combined. Laughing Glass is available in over 1,000 grocery accounts throughout California and Nevada.
“Our product is designed for the discriminating person who wants the ease and convenience but doesn’t want to sacrifice on flavor,” says Clahan. It also epitomizes the two women’s lifestyles and values.
“We saw those real housewives shows, and we had this amazing group of friends who were the exact opposite. We are never rude to each other, we always have each other’s backs, we are the polar opposite of the women on those shows. And we wanted a product that represented that too, not women being mean to each other and drinking crap.”
Clahan and Rainin-Smith hope that their Northern California mindset is reflected in their brand.
“It’s really fun going to work each day and working with friends. We have a great time. We socialize with each other; our families are good friends. Cocktails are supposed to be about fun, right?”
More information on Laughing Glass can be found here: laughingglasscocktails.com.