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Siblings Jen Beckman and Will Gray co-founded Back Pocket Provisions with a serious goal: to create a better Bloody Mary while also doing their part in creating a better food system. “A better bloody mary to change the world,” is what Will called it. But he’s not just joking around – food waste is a serious problem in the US, with around 40% of food being thrown away. Back Pocket Provisions steps in specifically to turn “ugly” tomatoes, ones that don’t fit the grocery store beauty standard, into delicious, award-winning Bloody Mary mix.
Bloody Marys combine 2 things that Will and Jen are very passionate about: working with local farmers and drinking. Will and Jen partner with small local farms directly and only produce seasonally, as long as the tomatoes are sweet and juicy and red. Will jokingly compared Back Pocket Provisions to a vineyard, since the growing and producing season is only a season long. The rest of the year is spent planning for next year.
Will comes from a background of food service. He worked in Virgina between Star Hill Brewing Company, the Rock Barn (which 4P Foods partnered with for our protein share prior to their closure), and King Family Vineyards. Jen used to be a patent litigator in downtown DC, but felt like her job wasn’t giving her the purpose she needed in life. She wanted to go a more conscious route in sustainable food, and decided it was more fun to make stuff than just talk about it.
Will and Jen are not picky about the kind of tomatoes that they will use. According to Will, golf-sized tomatoes actually make for a great Bloody Mary mix! At a time when 40% of food is never eaten, one of the big challenges facing growers is that there’s a disconnect between food that is marketable and food that is harvested. Will and Jen saw this market failure as an opportunity to step in and directly work with farmers to buy their imperfect tomatoes.
One of the farms they work closely with is Pritzer family farm, who have been farming since the revolutionary war. Another farm that they source from belongs to Richard Beam, a huge pioneer of sustainable farming. Will and Jen try their hardest to source from sustainable or organic farms, like Double H Farm which uses organic practices. Several of their farming partners are farms that 4P Foods sources from as well!
Their classic Bloody Brilliant mix is as close to a family recipe as it can get. Will and Jen grew up with a very well-established Bloody Mary culture in their family, which means really bright tomato flavor, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish and a dash of cayenne pepper. Will loves to drink it with vodka from One Eight Distilling, a local distillery in Northeast DC. The Bloody Bangkok was inspired by Jen’s love of Southeast Asian flavors, made with a Southeast Asian blend of red chilies, lemongrass, and fish sauce, and it goes best with gin. A summertime inspired flavor is the Bloody Baja, which has local green chilies, fresh garlic, smoked paprika, and Certified Organic, non-GMO sweet corn. It pairs best with tequila or mezcal.
Bloody Blue Ridge, Back Pocket's extra spicy collaboration with Catbird Sauce Co. and The Shack in Staunton, VA, won the 2020 Made in Virginia Award by Virginia Living Magazine - and the People's Choice Award in fall 2020's The Bloody Mary Festival. They even work with Monticello to make mix from tomatoes grown in Thomas Jefferson's historic gardens.
Photos courtesy of Back Pocket Provisions.