About a year ago, three Marin friends with a fondness for girls’ nights and hosting parties decided they didn’t like the ready-made margaritas on the market.
“Someone brought a Skinnygirl over and I said ‘I don’t think we can serve this to people we love,’” said Mill Valley resident Carey Clahan. So she, along with San Anselmo residents Sydney Rainin and Jill Korst joined forces and created their own ultimate pre-made mix, Laughing Glass Cocktails.
The goal? To develop a margarita with a lot of flavor, and not a lot of calories, and they teamed up with a distillery in Mexico to produce their very own blend of tequila to make it happen. Distilled in steel casks instead of oak, the ready-to-serve margarita is 90 percent agave blanco tequila, and 10 percent organic agave nectar. Laws prohibit exporting 100 percent agave blanco tequila out of Mexico, so this is the purest form they were able to achieve, Korst said.
The drink contains 40 calories for a 1 oz. serving and 110 calories for a 4 oz. serving – where a standard margarita can easily contain up to 600 calories, Korst said. It’s bottled locally at Monterey Wine Company in King City, and the $20 bottles recently hit shelves at stores across Marin - including Woodlands Market in Tiburon and Kenfield; Ludwig's Liquor and Smoke Shop in San Anselmo; Mill Valley Market and Jolly King Liquors in Mill Valley; Mollie Stones in Greenbrae and Sausalito; and the San Geronimo Golf Course drink cart.
“And more are coming on this week,” Rainin said.
Patch caught up with the margarita-loving ladies for some inside information on how Laughing Glass Cocktails came to be, the art of creating a customized tequila, and their extravagant plans for the future.
So, what made you decide to start your own cocktail company?
Rainin: We were all feeling like we wanted something new, and got together and were like, ‘what do we love doing?’
Clahan: We love hosting and getting together, and do it all the time. Girl friends getting together is important for community, your psyche and having a group of friends. With Jill’s mixology experience we were like, this is a no brainer.
Rainin: The reason we named it Laughing Glass is it’s all about bringing people together and having fun.
Why focus on margaritas?
Korst: Fifty percent of all ready-made drinks are margaritas.
That makes sense. So you teamed up with Leyros Distillery in Mexico, and how did you go about blending your own tequila?
Clahan: We had a lot of taste tests.
Korst: We had 27 adjectives that were important to us. Words like floral, agave, forward, earthy, grass, citrus. There was mango in there. We definitely wanted something smooth without any of that bitterness.
Well, you definitely accomplished that. Do you plan to sell your tequila separately?
Korst: I’d like to.
Clahan: We’ve considered that. It’s a really yummy tequila and better than a lot of what’s out there.
What’s been the most interesting thing you’ve learned in this process?
Clahan: Everything. We learned a lot about tequila and Mexico. I’m a tequila lover, but now I consider myself a tequila expert.
How has the response been to Laughing Glass so far?
Korst: We’re starting to a do a lot of events. That’s another interesting learning curve. Men love it. The response from men has been fantastic.
Why do you think that is?
Korst: They like that it’s not sweet, and they like that it’s smooth.
Rainin: They keep coming back.
But with the low calorie count, it’s marketed more toward women, right?
Clahan: It’s about being authentic and is more about taste, and getting your girlfriends together and having a girl’s night in, or a backyard barbeque.
What kind of events have you been to?
Clahan: Local charity events. The Yes Foundation [which supports the Ross Valley School District], the Redwood High School’s Redwood Rocks gala, the Kiddo! gala last month [which supports the Mill Valley School District]. We served like 500 margaritas there. People were really responsive.
So I take it business has been good?
Clahan: We already sold out in two stores. Woodlands in Kentfield and Mill Valley Market.
Korst: By starting a business here in Marin, so many of our friends are at the top of their careers, and we’ve been able to tap into that. It’s also an area of foodies, and they know their drinks.
Will you go beyond margaritas?
Korst: We have plans for one more tequila-based cocktail, and four vodka-based cocktails.
When are those coming out?
Korst: A couple of years, depending on how fast we grow.
Do you have plans to expand?
Rainin: We’re expanding further into the North Bay, East Bay and then San Francisco. Our goal is to really fill out all of California by Q1 of 2014, then Washington, Oregon and Colorado by the end of 2014. We would like to eventually be in all 50 states.
What’s been your favorite part of this experience so far?
Korst: Working together.
Rainin: It’s a real team. We’re like sisters now.