Friday, May 6, 2011
Stinky Gringo's Growing Margarita Empire
By Evan Rytlewski
"We lost everything overnight," says Deanna Amidzich of the January 2010 four-alarm fire that destroyed Pizza Man, the historic East Side restaurant she owned with her husband, Mike. In the aftermath of the fire, which had been deliberately set at a neighboring North Avenue restaurant, the couple scouted new locations to rebuild the restaurant while refocusing their attention on their other business, Stinky Gringo—a line of pre-mixed margaritas and tequila based on the margaritas they had served at Pizza Man.
"It was a margarita that everybody always liked," Amidzich says. "We would make batches for friends and family and people would keep saying, 'There's nothing like this on the market; you need to bottle this.' So we did, as a pie-in-the-sky venture. We produced our first bottle on April Fools' Day 2004."
That gambit is now Amidzich's full-time job. Once only available at local retailers, the company's products are now carried in more than 20 states, five of which have been added since this January, and the company is expecting that rapid growth to continue. Last year Stinky Gringo produced 27,000 cases of margaritas, a number it plans to double this year.
The brand's appeal is obvious: At 36 proof, Stinky Gringo's are easily the strongest pre-mixed margaritas on the market, far more potent than the 20 proof of most pre-mixed margaritas. In addition to more booze for the buck, Stinky Gringo's margaritas are made from pure tequila, unlike cheaper brands that cut their mixes with wine or grain alcohol.
"The reason we're going so fast is that consumers are getting more educated on what they're drinking," Amidzich says. "We've been doing tastings wherever we can, and we have a growing cult following on Facebook."
The Amidziches say Stinky Gringo is now their main concern. After talks of reopening Pizza Man in a new location fell through and Mike was hospitalized with a stress-related illness this year, the couple decided fate was telling them to retire from the restaurant business.
"We've met with a few people who are interested in purchasing the Pizza Man recipes, name and rights, but as far as going through the hell of operating a restaurant ourselves, those days are over," Amidzich says. "Right now I'm having way more fun selling hooch and watching this business really come into fruition."