In a wood-paneled office on Lake Forrest Drive in Sandy Springs, prominent zoning attorney Pete Hendricks has hashed out real estate plans with such major metro Atlanta clients as Cousins Properties and Ashton Woods.
Now that office doubles as the headquarters for a more personal business: Sister’s Sauce, a handcrafted bloody mary cocktail mix that Pete’s son Nat is making from an old family recipe. It’s named for a beloved bird dog who is depicted in an oil painting hanging over the office fireplace.
“Over the years, we’ve served it to friends,” Pete Hendricks said of the bloody mary mix he first whipped up in college 50 years ago. “People kept saying, ‘You’re nuts not to do anything with this.’”
A year ago, Nat decided to take the recipe commercial as a way to escape a corporate job for a more creative and personally rewarding line of work.
“It encapsulates a lot of what I value—our family, our dogs,” Nat said.
As a business, the Hendrickses aim to have Sister’s Sauce bring bloody mary mix into the booming craft cocktail and beer market.
“The [craft] mentality hasn’t been applied to this yet,” said Nat, whose Sister’s Sauce label design advertises it as “bespoke” and “handcrafted one bottle at a time.”
The bloody mary is a cocktail that mixes vodka and tomato juice with a variety of spices and seasonings, typically including horseradish, lemon juice, celery seed, pepper and Tabasco and Worcestershire sauces. A bloody mary mix is a prepared version of the tomato juice and seasonings ready for adding to vodka.
Pete Hendricks developed his mix in the 1960s when he attended Washington and Lee University in Virginia. He said it was the “old-school Washington and Lee,” where food-servers dished out cocktails on Sunday mornings. One option was a tub of vanilla ice cream with bourbon poured over it; bloody marys were another option.
“I got tired of drinking these bloody marys where I just felt bloated when I was done,” Pete said. “I started screwing around with concoctions” and developed his own recipe.
The future Sister’s Sauce got one previous public tasting in the early 1970s, when Kathy Hendricks — Pete’s wife and Nat’s mother — ran a cooking and catering business called Cook’s Corner on Buckhead’s East Shadowlawn Avenue. Pete taught a course on his three specialties: bloody marys, fried chicken and cole slaw.
Kathy’s kitchen also was an influence on Nat, who played at tossing together ingredients.
“Mom would say, ‘You’re making potions now,’” Nat recalled.
But Nat’s first career steps, a decade ago, headed toward government and commercial real estate. In 2006 and 2007, he interned for then-Rep. Nathan Deal, now Georgia’s governor. Nat ended up with a job at a logistics firm overseeing the importation of auto parts. He said it was financially, but not creatively, rewarding.
Looking around for other options, Nat said, he asked himself, “What if I start making dad’s mix?”
He got a commercial cooking certification, tweaked Pete’s recipe, and began hand-bottling the mix at shared kitchen facilities, most recently at the University of Georgia. He dreams of opening his own “saucery,” a term he coined for a mix-making kitchen.
The brand name came naturally from Sister, who belonged to a line of hunting dogs now in its eighth and ninth generations on the Hendricks family farm in Starrsville in Newton County. Pete calls Sister, who died in 1990, “the love of my life.” She was important to Nat, too.
“Literally his first word, clear as a bell, was ‘Sister,’ ” Pete recalled.
A painting of Sister decorates the mix’s label.
As for what’s inside the bottle, Nat says there are no secret ingredients, just “a very classic, simple bloody mary the way it should be made.”
“Life’s complicated enough,” he said. “In a world of over-complication, this is simple.”
But it’s a finely tuned mix of the generations, with the father’s old-school recipe refined by the son who talks in the modern language of “sustainable” and “holistic” business. Pete said Nat “took the concoction and refined it, but got all the junk out of it.” It has no MSG or high-fructose corn syrup, and it’s gluten-free, Nat says.
While the Hendrickses can’t control how people serve Sister’s Sauce, they hope the attitude of simplicity carries over into the garnish, which in many bars and restaurants is going well beyond the standard celery stick and olives. Nat said he’s seen “outlandish-looking bloody marys … with three chicken wings sticking out.”
The handmade Sister’s Sauce sells for $15 a bottle — two to three times the price of the typical jug of mix available in grocery stores. Nat said his customers find it a fair price for a handcrafted family recipe.
Sister’s Sauce launched a year ago at a pop-up shop in Midtown’s Ponce City Market and is now available at specialty stores around Atlanta, including Lucy’s Market in Buckhead. For more information, see facebook.com/SistersSauce.