August 12, 2010

Powell & Mahoney Cocktail Mixer Review

powell_and_mahoney.pngGenerally speaking, there are three pillars to making pretty much any cocktail - finding the right balance of sweet (e.g., sugar, simple syrup), sour (e.g., citrus), and strong (e.g., booze). This is one of the most important (and sometimes most difficult) aspects of mixing a cocktail is getting that balance right, which is a big reason why people often rely on pre-made cocktail mixers. They're quicker, you don't have to round up a ton of ingredients, but the trade-off is you're pretty much trusting someone else's taste for the balance.

That's why we were interested to review Powell & Mahoney's pre-mixed offerings for some cocktail mainstays - the Mojito, the Margarita, the Cosmopolitan, and the Bloody Mary, as well as a Ginger-flavored mixer that had Dark & Stormy visions running through our head. The labels promised high-quality ingredients and delicious flavors, so we rounded up the proper bottles of hard stuff and waded in, with mixed results.

The first thing we noticed was that the labels didn't include any indication of how much booze to add to each mixer. We don't need the ounces laid out for us, but a ratio of liquor to mixer as a guideline would certainly have been helpful. Our instincts told us one part liquor to two to three parts mixer, and we generally stuck to that, but we probably have a bit more experience with whipping up our own cocktails than their target market. Once we got that sorted out, it was on to the tasting.

We mixed the Margarita with Herradura Silver, and it made for a pretty good margarita. It seemed a bit sweet to us, but when we mucked around with the ratios and added some of our own fresh-squeezed lime juice we were able to make some solid drinks. Adding our lime juice stepped on the valencia orange flavor they use in place of triple sec, but we felt the added tartness was a good trade off.

This one damn near killed us, because we love a good Mojito more than life itself, and we mixed it with our good Bacardi Superior, but all we could taste was sugar with a minty back end and a trace of lime. We realize the sugar is an important part of this drink, but every cocktail we made with this ended up blindingly sweet. Since these mixers are made in small batches, it got to the point we're afraid there's a big red lever marked "SUGAR" near the mojito vat that somebody knocked with their elbow for our batch. It tasted like someone melted down a mojito-flavored lollipop, and there seemed very little we could do to cut the syrupy mouthfeel and flavor unless we juiced so many limes into the cocktails we might as well have made them from scratch.

After a near miss with the Margarita and a toothache from the Mojito we were nervous, but we soldiered on. We mixed our cosmos with Vesica vodka, and we were back on track. No syrupy sweetness, no sugar headache, just a nice blend of sweet and tart. They got their balance of cranberry, lime, and sugar right in this one and we'd be proud to serve this to any guest we had over.

Bloody Mary
It's tough to go wrong with a bloody mary, and we felt this was a good mary mix with a bit of bite, but not overwhelmingly spicy. We liked that they gave us room to add a splash of Worcestershire or some Tabasco if we wanted it, and we also liked that we waited to review this one at brunch. There is simply no better time to drink a bloody mary than before noon, and this mixer was sassy enough to brighten our morning.

We saved the ginger for last, and we were glad we did. This one was a bit sweet but not overwhelmingly, and had a delicious ginger afterburn with a nice lingering (but mild) heat. Adding a splash of this to bourbon was delicious, and found ourselves mixing drinks of this, Jim Beam, and either ginger ale or soda water with a twist of lime. If you like ginger, and you see this in your local store - buy it. You won't regret it.

The Verdict
We had a bit of a hiccup with the Mojito, but we felt the other four bottles were excellent representatives of their class, and four out of five ain't bad. Powell & Mahoney are priced competitively at seven bucks a bottle, especially for the ingredients they're using, so we highly recommend picking up a bottle of the mixer that suits your fancy. They will also be offering a Hot Toddy in the coming weeks, so you may want to stock up on those for the winter.

All in all, we like the brand, we like what they're trying to do, and we say give them a try for your next party or event where you don't want to spend all your time mixing drinks instead of mingling.

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Posted by Jake Jamieson at August 12, 2010 11:25 PM
Recent Comments

My husband's a bit too drunk to type right now but he certainly shares your thoughts re. the mojito. So much so, we'd actually had a whole conversation right before we found this review, about how the guy mixing it must've accidentally knocked the big red SUGAR lever by mistake. Spooky!

Posted by: Clare Blencowe at February 23, 2013 7:44 PM

Thanks for the kind words and we're honored that you reviewed our new line of mixers! The Margarita is different than most that you'll taste because of its orange profile. You picked a great tequila to mix it with as we suggest a blanco for best results. It's also important to note that we use only ORGANIC sugar, so that flavor will also be new to many. We're a young enough company to tweak as we move forward and I hear you loud & clear on the we'll make strides to improve. On the Bloody and Ginger...thanks so much! The ginger is also so good with Irish whiskey (1 to 1 with lime) and as an ingredient for Dark & Stormy and the Moscow Mule! Our website will be up real soon, so please come visit us ( and please ask for us at your local store. Cheers! Brian

Posted by: Brian Powell at August 14, 2010 4:23 PM

With all due respect, you're using the word "excellent" rather cheaply.
The way you describe the ginger and cosmo mixers would seem to fit the definition of the word; but if you had to doctor the margarita mixer that much, it can't possibly qualify for "excellent." It's a mix; if you have to doctor it at all beyond some very slight adjustment for personal preference, you might as well be mixing the drink from scratch - that's NOT "excellent."
It's certainly not why we buy mixers.

Posted by: Jose at August 13, 2010 6:07 PM
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