As a restaurant industry veteran, Javier Garcia has mixed more than his share of the beer-and-tomato-juice cocktails better known as micheladas from behind the bar.
“I love micheladas,” says Garcia. “I’ve been drinking them since way before I should have been drinking them.”
“It’s spicy, has limon and has a little bit of salt which means it’s purposeful, kind of for a hangover. It’s rooted in just big bright traditional Mexican flavors.”
Now, Garcia wants to bring his Big Mich michelada mixes to your family’s refrigerator. But before he got Big Mich started, he needed to get the stamp of approval from his wife, Nathalie Solis.
“It was definitely a leap, right, to tell your wife I want to quit my job and sell tomato juice, you know, on the streets.”
Garcia says years of restaurant work had him ready to mix it up professionally. With Nathalie’s encouragement, he quit his job in 2017 and used his last paycheck to start hand-blending micheladas in their basement.
“I went to Menards, and I bought all the mason jars they had at Menards, I went to Costco and I bought all the limes they had at Costco, and we tried to prove concept. And that first weekend we made $1,000. So it really started with $600.”
Garcia says word spread quickly, and the increasing demand allowed him to officially launch Big Mich later the same year selling to local liquor stores. Solis joined the company in 2018 and added a dash of friends and family to expand the team. Now, Big Mich is building a distinctly Mexican identity for their growing product line.
“We wanted to kind of take our lives, our interests and what we like from other brands and put it to our brand, which is ultimately a Latino Mexican brand,” says Solis.
Director of brand marketing Juan Sanchez says their strategy is to lean into what they love.
“We want to highlight the moments that our family shares – our traditions, our cultures, and our family gatherings and how we as a brand live within those moments.”
And they say the main ingredient of that identity is freshness.
“Being a Latino, we know what great food tastes like, we know what fresh food tastes like,” says Solis.
“We try to chop it, puree it, all in-house, so we can kind of control where it is. All of our [chilies are] dehydrated locally, it’s blended here in-house,” says Garcia.
Procurement and business development manager Xavier Mondujano says Chicago’s robust Mexican presence means easier access to the ingredients they need.
“We aren’t afraid to spend a little bit more if it means that we’re going to get the freshest products and produce out there. Luckily we live in Chicago where we can drive down to Little Village and Pilsen and find some really quality products from Mexico.”
In 2020, Big Mich made a big move. They took production from the back room of the Cicero grocery store to a larger facility in suburban Willowbrook. With space to stretch out, they’re hoping to compete with the big beverage brands while still taking care of the family-owned stores that gave them their start, says chief operating officer Danny Vargas.
“The mom-and-pop stores really care about what’s on their shelves, that’s real estate space for them,” says Vargas. “We want to make sure that we’re putting some quality product on there, but on top of that also giving them that white glove service.”
And Garcia and Solis say that no matter how big Big Mich gets, they’ll always be in it “pa’la gente.”
“People are really proud to say, look, I just bought this jar of Big Mich, I’m going to share it on my Snapchat, my Instagram, my Facebook, so that people know this is what I drink,” says Solis. “The fact that people do it so willingly and they just share the love – I’m just really ecstatic about that.”