Kansas

1 hit is all it takes – JeffCountyNews.com

 

Jamie Wright and Scott Clabaugh stand behind the bar at Stinky’s Bar in Oskaloosa, the place where it all began 1 Shot Bloody Mary Mix by GJ.

by Bridget Weishaar

Red snapper. Virgin Mary. The Caesar. Michelada. It doesn’t matter how you slice the tomato, it all boils down to one thing, the mix!

While there are many different combinations of a Bloody Mary mix, there is only one Bloody Mary 1 Shot from GJ and it’s right here at Oskaloosa.

What is 1 Shot, you ask? According to co-owners Scott Clabaugh and Jamie Wright, it’s one of the three ingredients needed to make the perfect bloody mary. The other two, vodka and tomato juice.

A typical bloody mary mix usually consists of things like hot sauce, garlic, spices, salt, pepper, etc. Getting the “perfect” combination can be difficult and time consuming. Purchasing a bottle of GJ’s 1 Shot Concentrate eliminates the guesswork. A dash of Worcestershire sauce here, a sprinkle of garlic there, add some “unregistered” secret ingredients and bam, FLAVOR EXPLOSION! Wright has done all the hard work for you. Just add the vodka and tomato juice and the toughest decision after that is how many bottles to order.

GJ’s backstory is simple. Clabaugh owns Stinky’s Bar on the south side of the square and Wright is his bartender. He perfected the mix and he found someone to bottle it.

Wright was employed by Clabaugh at Stinky’s for just over seven years. While working behind the counter, he toyed with a recipe for serving the locals, but it never took off. Night after night of throwing out a product that nobody ordered and Clabaugh found himself looking for a way to give the concoction a shelf life with vodka and tomato juice to add later.

One summer night, while sitting around a campfire with friends, enjoying the mix, Wright said, “We should just bottle it.” Clabaugh said “OK”. Within a week he had obtained his tax ID and an LLC was born.

Pooling their sources, they approached Spicin Foods with Wright’s recipe, and the GJ’s project was tossed. Spicin Foods manufactures and sells hot sauces, condiments, spices and gourmet snacks. Clabaugh became familiar with the Kansas City business many years ago when Oskaloosa native Don Haynes ran Chunkie Dunkers barbecue out of the back of his bar.

Bottled as-is, GJ’s is a simple concentrate that can be used as a marinade or added to hamburger meat for grilling. Wright swears he makes the best deviled eggs, too.

“It’s so versatile. Refrigerated or not, it would take more than two years for it to go bad,” Clabaugh said. The real “bloody mary” doesn’t come into play until vodka is involved.

It took Spicin many test rides and about six months before the teams arrived at a happy compromise and the company moved on to bottling.

Being in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic led to a slow start for GJ’s, but the group didn’t give up. October 2020 kicked off when a Universal Product Code (or UPC) was acquired and a bottling label was created. In November, the initial batch of 800 one-liter sample bottles were produced and in December, they hit shelves in Oskaloosa, both at Stinky’s Bar and the Westside Liquor Store. Now that they had 800 bottles, what next?

The team enlisted all the help they could get and hit the road. They started knocking on the door of every retail liquor store they could find to get their product out.

Samples were collected and companies were invited to try the product. One activity led to another, which led to another, which then led to larger orders and finally on-the-spot tastings.

Today, 405 gallons compromises a batch of concentrate. One lot is equivalent to 1,620 bottles. With a single shot of one fluid ounce per drink, each bottle makes 32 bloody mary drinks.

Clabaugh and Wright are not alone on this journey. Many hands help make the business a success. The duo credit Kansas State University for the nutritional content of the concentrate. The name comes from Wright’s granddaughter who nicknames her GJ. Clabaugh himself designed the logo, and friend Lynn Heinen helps with the promotional aspect, offering and orchestrating on-site tastings and contests. Turner Designs, Valley Falls, gets credit for GJ’s swag. Currently, GJ’s is sold in 25 locations throughout the state of Kansas and has an outlet in St. Joseph, Mo. Within Jefferson County, the product may be mixed into a drink at The Elevator, Valley Falls or Lago Vista, Ozawkie. It can be purchased by the bottle at Reel Liquor and Bernie’s, Perry’s, Oskaloosa Thriftway, Westside Liquor, Oskaloosa and, of course, Stinky’s Bar offers both options.

Down the street in Shawnee County, GJ’s can be found at Barrel House Liquor on Northwest Lyman Road or Stumpy’s Smoked Cheese on Northwest Topeka Boulevard.

Currently all aspects of the business are managed by Wright and Clabaugh themselves. They do all the marketing and sales, collect the product from Spicin after bottling, stock the cases themselves, process all online sales orders and deliver to their retailers.

The hardest part so far, and the next goal on their list, is finding a distributor. The company has approached popular distribution centers like Coors and Budweiser and still can’t get its foot in the door.

Wanting to get their product known outside of the county, GJ’s jumped on the flavor bandwagon and hit the competition circuit like a storm.

They searched for contests online, paid the taxes out of pocket, loaded up the trailer and hit the road. February 2022 saw them at their first tasting contest in Austin, Texas. They served over 700 cups and used over 11 gallons of GJ’s mix, taking home a second-place win in the People’s Choice Award for Best Bottled Product.

The competition was tough. GJ’s was pitted against established multi-million dollar companies such as Demitri’s Bloody Mary Seasoning, Seattle, Washington, and Zing Zang Bloody Mary Mix, Chicago, Ill. Bitten by the bug, they headed to the Bloody Mary Festival in Denver, Colo., in early December. This time they came away with two wins. The first, a second Judge’s Choice Award for Best Bottled Product. The other, a double People’s Choice Award win for Best Bottled Product.

Although the duo were pleased with a pair of first-time wins, they are eager to get back into the competition groove this year. First on the list is the Bloody Mary Festival in Denver in September, followed by Twin Cities, Minnesota in October.

Clabaugh is originally from Batesville, Ark., but moved to the Oskaloosa area in the fourth grade. After a four-year stint as a Marine in the 1980s, he took a job at Hallmark Cards, Lawrence. “I just got tired of working for other people,” he said. He bought Stinky’s in 2003 and has operated on the south side of the square for 19 years.

Wright hails from Denver, moving here in 2008 as he began his military career. Basic training sent her to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. In 2009 she was sent to Egypt on a peacekeeping mission. She was medically retired in 2014. The duo pride themselves on being 100% veteran owned and operated.

GJs can be purchased by visiting one of the local retailers listed above and found on Facebook or on the web at

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