This Barbecue Wife Is Here To Fix Your Cocktail Mixers
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After Catherine Stiles and her husband Shane opened their first Austin barbecue joint, Stiles Switch BBQ, the creative mom of two saw an opportunity to create something not already done to death in the world of Texas barbecue. She wanted to take her family’s signature sauce and put it behind the bar, effectively turning the Central Texas flavor the Stiles team is known for and melding it with her bloody mary mix, a formula she’s been concocting for fun since college.
At first sip, a Texas-sized light bulb went off.
“The flavors married right into my bloody mary mix and we arrived at something that we thought was really exceptional,” Catherine says. “That was really the first mixer that helped Barbecue Wife come about.”
Born from the spirit of craft-style barbecue and the family-owned business Catherine and her husband have lovingly built together, Barbecue Wife’s “junk-free,” gluten-free, vegetarian cocktail mixes found a thirsty audience quickly, leading to placement in over 300 retailers across the state. In fact, the blood mary mix was so well-received that Catherine later launched a margarita mix with smoked honey, following the same clean-ingredient philosophy. But just like a tender bite of Central Texas barbecue, Barbecue Wife’s transformation from kitchen mix to premium craft product was slow, bold, and all about the details.
Everything’s all-natural in Texas
While studying at Texas A&M, Catherine tended bar to make ends meet and pay for school. She had no idea that this skillset, paired with a decade of experience in PR and marketing at a major media brand and a health food startup respectively, would lead her down a path of creating award-winning cocktail mixers.
“Between those two careers, I learned so much,” she says. “I saw in the health food space how to use ingredients that can make a product better and that you don’t always have to go the cheaper route.”
This insight into relying on only natural ingredients remained with Catherine after she shifted gears to managing marketing and PR for the family barbecue business in 2011. It was here at Stiles Switch BBQ where she learned the time and care that goes into creating an authentic, homegrown recipe from scratch. It’s also where she got the idea to pair her bloody mix with the restaurant's signature barbecue sauce.
Just about every product in the grocery aisle is trying to jump on the health food bandwagon by labeling what’s inside their products -- and what isn’t. So when Catherine kept finding bloody mary mixes, and margarita mixes, loaded up with additives like MSG, High Fructose Corn Syrup, and other “junk” on the back of labels, Catherine knew people also deserved to make a margarita they could reach for on a sweltering Texas day that tasted good and felt good to drink. Thus, the Barbecue Wife Margarita Mix was born.
“We’ve taken all the artificial ingredients out of the bloody mary mix as well as allergens,” says Alex Worthington, who handles all of the production for Barbecue Wife. “You get a high-quality yet affordable mix that is unmatched, and the margarita mix is probably the closet to a fresh mix you’ll find.”
With local honey smoked for up to 48 hours on the barbecue pit at Stiles Switch, fresh-squeezed limes, and filtered Texas Spring water, Barbecue Wife is doing the official drink of Austin the right way.
“We actually take a lot of time researching the ingredients that we’re using and taking our time to make sure we’re not cutting corners and getting things right,” Catherine says. “We’re not going to be $2 on the shelf and this is why.”
From college concoction to Texas topshelf
With a tiny but mighty team of five women in the kitchen, Catherine’s scaling up and fulfilling large orders every month. Even though Barbecue Wife is only carried in retail stores located in Texas, any margarita or bloody lover can get bottles shipped across the country online. It’s given Catherine the national attention she’s worked so hard for. Now, both the bloody mary and margarita mix are about to enter the shelves at HEB -- one of Texas’ largest retail grocery stores.
“She has made Barbecue Wife successful on her own, all with a husband, two small children, and a growing restaurant business,” Shane says. “She really is Superwoman.”
This year, she took home the grand prize at Sam Adams’ Brewing The American Dream pitch contest at SXSW. All thanks to a passionate, two-minute pitch about Barbecue Wife to a panel of judges, Catherine walked away with a media package from Foursquare, business mentoring straight from Sam Adams execs -- and $15,000 that helped expand her margarita mix product line.
The Barbecue Wife Community
Catherine’s become one of the first to take the flavors of Central Texas barbecue and create premium, craft mixes out of it. Now, she’s evolved Barbecue Wife into a lifestyle brand -- every bit of it celebrating badass Texas women living and breathing the same barbecue lifestyle that inspired her in the first place.
From artist-drawn illustrations of the Barbecue Wife inside each bottle to t-shirts, koozies, and snapbacks, Barbecue Wife authentically reflects Catherine’s everyday life as a woman in barbecue. She even started a website profile series showcasing the lives of other barbecue wives all over Texas -- like Stacey Franklin of Austin’s famous Franklin Barbecue -- with Q+A’s discussing not only barbecue, but wisdom on entrepreneurship, raising a family, and striking out on your own.
“Barbecue Wife gave me an opportunity to tell stories of amazing women that are actually involved in Texas barbecue,” Catherine says, “but [who] might not always be at the forefront of the barbecue story because they aren’t the pitmaster or the one that is getting all the attention.”
A good time in a bottle
By using homegrown ingredients, employing local women, and showcasing other female powerhouses in barbecue, every bottle of Barbecue Wife is Catherine’s “love letter” to her hometown. From the bottle design to what’s actually inside, every savory bit of Barbecue Wife celebrates Austin and Catherine’s heritage. As thanks, she gives back to this same tight-knit community who believed in her Texas-sized idea since the beginning through a program called the “Drink Good, Do Good” campaign. Barbecue Wife donates 1% of annual net profits to local charitable causes every year, including children’s charities like Safe Austin. Giving some good back to the world -- through her very own “good time in a bottle” -- is the Barbecue Wife way of life.
”I stand for something,” Catherine says. “We’re not just creating a product that we’re trying to throw out there in a cheap way and make as much profit as we can. It’s about making something that we feel good about every single day.”