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“Waste not, want not” is a proverb that has proven to be true for the founders of the Real Dill. For every batch of pickles they make, owners Tyler DuBois and Justin Park brine cucumber spears (between 2,000 and 2,500 pounds a week) overnight in lightly salted water. The long soak crisps the vegetables but also leaches out valuable flavor. The byproduct is fragrant cucumber water that DuBois and Park would regretfully pour down the drain when they were done. “The overwhelming smell of fresh cucumbers made us feel guilty every time we dumped it,” DuBois says.
So the two set out to repurpose the brine. Making Bloody Mary mix seemed like a natural fit since the brunch cocktail often comes with some kind of pickle garnish. Park and DuBois tinkered until they had what they felt was a winning combination—adding tomato paste, habanero peppers, dill, garlic, horseradish, and, of course, cucumber—and then started sending samples to their retailers. “We figured, if it sells, great,” DuBois says. “If not, at least we tried.”
Within months, the mixture, which launched in 2013, was outselling the Real Dill’s pickles. Today the four-year-old company makes about 1,500 jars a week and can hardly keep up with demand. (The Real Dill also makes a proprietary blend for Snooze An A.M. Eatery.) “We now joke that we’re a Bloody Mary mix company with a pickle problem,” Park says. The blend is so popular the Real Dill recently began selling it in 64-ounce growlers—about eight cocktails’ worth.
DuBois and Park are getting ready to launch a new product that will solve another waste problem for the Real Dill: When making pickles, the proprietors slice off the
blossom ends of the cucumbers. Now those ends, and any cucumber spears that don’t make the quality cut, will be brined and strained out to produce straight pickle juice.
The company will sell jars to bars for cocktails and to athletes to curb cramping. “It’s been bred into my being: Don’t waste,” says DuBois. “If there’s any way to use it, we use it.”