Kenneth Hamburger II was a Lamborghini salesman in 2008, when the economy tanked. He was laid off, and saw a chance to do something on his own.
His future was born of a martini glass. Hamburger was drinking with friends one night when he realized it’s hard to make a good dirty martini at home, and even bartenders make them too salty. A dirty martini is vodka served straight up with olive juice. Hamburger started experimenting with olives in his M Streets kitchen.
“I figured, if you can squeeze grapes, and you can squeeze oranges, why not do the same thing with olives?” he says.
After some trials, he found a way to squeeze olives for juice, and it tasted better than any martini mix he had tried. A friend with a wine press helped him perfect the process on a large scale, and in March 2010, they produced the first bottle of 1888 Dirtiest Martini Mix. It is the only martini mix on the market that consists of pure olive juice, Hamburger says. All the others are olive brine.
The 1888 mix now is widely available at liquor sores in Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona and New Mexico. Nick & Sam’s was Hamburger’s first client, and Kirby’s Woodfire Grill uses 1888 in its signature martini. Hamburger now is working on distribution deals in Missouri and Illinois. Next year, 1888 will launch two new flavors: bleu cheese and jalapeño.
Hamburger sold all his stocks and cashed in his retirement to start the business.
“It was a huge risk,” he says. But people always drink. Now Hamburger works fulltime for himself.
• Find 1888 Dirtiest Martini Mix at 1888olivepress.com.
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