Winter Beverages of the North Shore
Photographs by Lauren Poussard
Perhaps you are looking for that perfect winter beverage. Maybe a spicy chipotle Bloody Mary to warm you during the cold months? Or a mango passion fruit margarita to transport you someplace tropical? An effervescent peach Bellini for toasting the holidays?
Whatever your cocktail craving, Powell & Mahoney has you covered. The Salem–based company, now heading into its sixth year in business, produces all-natural cocktail mixers that consistently win industry accolades for quality. The line includes blends for popular favorites like mojitos and cosmopolitans alongside trendier flavors like a blood orange mixer and Sriracha Bloody Mary. Bartending basics like simple syrup and grenadine are also part of the lineup. “We’re constantly trying to tweak, to improve and better the products,” says company co-founder Mark Mahoney.
The company capitalizes on the surging popularity of the craft cocktail movement. As people are increasingly exposed to beverages featuring unexpected flavors and fresh ingredients, they have become more adventurous and are less likely to settle for the same old rum and Coke at home. Powell& Mahoney aims to satisfy these newly minted cocktail connoisseurs at reasonable prices.
Indeed, the company has its roots in the aftermath of the recent recession.
Mahoney had long been involved in beverage production. He had previously owned a company that made smoothie and cocktail bases using fresh fruit from California, and another that sold high-end mixers in custom-designed bottles. When the economy crashed, however, consumers were no longer willing to pay a premium for their cocktail ingredients, so Mahoney and his partner decided to shut down the business.
Around this same time, Mahoney was approached by Brian Powell, another food and beverage veteran who had worked for one of Mahoney’s competitors. Powell thought the two should get together and launch their own product. So the pair started brainstorming. “One iteration led to another, and after six months, he convinced me to launch Powell & Mahoney,” recalls Mahoney.
Because the economy was still struggling, they decided to skip the fancy packaging and elaborate branding and instead focus exclusively on creating the highest-quality product they could. “We said, ‘We’ll just concentrate on what’s in the bottle,’” notes Mahoney.
In the beginning, they had a tough time finding a manufacturing partner that could meet the standards they aspired to. So, instead of contracting the work out, the partners put together an investment partnership and bought a beverage-manufacturing facility in Vermont, allowing the company to have complete control over the production process. “We own all the sourcing, the manufacturing, the quality control,” explains Mahoney.
Today, Powell & Mahoney’s small-batch mixers are created in 300-gallon steam kettles that pasteurize the concoctions at lower temperatures than the industrial-sized pasteurization systems generally used by large-scale producers. This lower processing temperature preserves more natural flavor in the final product, according to Mahoney. The procedure takes more than five times as long as a more conventional approach, but they feel the improved quality makes it entirely worth the added time.
Currently, the company buys the juice it uses from sources carefully selected for the freshness and quality of their products. But the partners are also looking into whether they can do some of their own juicing in-house, making the journey from fruit to cocktail even shorter.
Powell and Mahoney’s products were a hit from the very beginning. While they were processing their very first order, they received a second order five times as large as the first. Their Sriracha BloodyMary—featuring the wildly popular Asian hot sauce—was an instant favorite, and competitors clamored to devise their own version. “We immediately caught some great traction in the marketplace,” says Mahoney.
Though the company still prides itself on its small-batch production methods, it has scaled up to satisfy some very large customers, including Whole Foods and Target. On the North Shore, cocktail-inclined shoppers can also find the mixers at six Crosby’s Marketplace locations, Henry’s Market in Beverly, Shubie’s Marketplace in Marblehead, and Wegmans in Burlington. Online ordering is also available.
The industry has recognized the company as well. In the past year alone, Powell & Mahoney products have received accolades from the Beverage Testing Institute and the Spirits International Prestige Awards, where the company swept the margarita category.
Looking forward, the partners are planning to expand their line into classic carbonated mixers—tonic water, ginger beer, and some less-traditional choices, like sparkling mojito.
With so many choices, what does Mahoney prefer for his own cocktail hour? When he started the company, he was a big drinker of margaritas. These days, however, he prefers a simple gin and tonic—with Powell & Mahoney tonic water, of course.