Amoretti: Creating a Fresh Mix
By SARAH THEODORE
The dog days of summer call for cool, refreshing drinks, and the Cuban-inspired Mojito is one of this year’s most popular choices. Amoretti, based in Chatsworth, Calif., has made this minty rum-based cocktail accessible to a whole new audience with the recent rollout of Mojito Libre. The product, which was more than a year in the making, combines fresh mint and limes with simple syrup for an always-consistent, easy-to-prepare mixer.
“Before our product was launched, bartenders would take fresh mint and muddle it, fresh lime and muddle it, and would make their own cane syrup, and then go on to make their drink,” says Maral Barsoumian, who founded the company with her husband Jack. “There are so many variables that you could never get the drink to taste the same, even with the same bartender.”
The company was asked by a large restaurant customer to develop a Mojito mixer, and the Barsoumians had the enviable task of researching this Cuban favorite in restaurants and bars in both the United States and the Caribbean to pinpoint its flavor characteristics. The result is an all-natural and preservative-free product that Barsoumian says cuts preparation time for bartenders from eight minutes to less than one.
“We spent quite a bit of time on it because the mint starts oxidizing the minute you snap it. You lose the wonderful aroma and taste,” Barsoumian says. “It’s crucial to perfectly capture that fresh mint sensation. When you open the bottle, it smells like you’ve literally cut the mint right then and there.”
While the current version of Mojito Libre is designed for foodservice use, the company has plans for a more ready-to-drink consumer version of the product in the future that will simplify the process even further.
Keep them guessing
A key element to Amoretti’s success is Jack Barsoumian’s R&D experience and tireless study — he is said to have conducted more than a quarter of a million R&D-related experiments throughout his food and beverage career. Through their research, the group discovered that the perfect Mojito flavor is complex and ever-changing.
“When you first taste it, you think ‘that was mint I tasted first, the fresh spearmint,’” says Maral Barsoumian. “But then when you take the second sip, you think ‘No, that was lime at the beginning.’ You have to create a point of confusion and if you successfully get that person to be confused, that’s the perfect Mojito. If it’s too minty, too limey or too sweet, then you’ve lost it.”
She says Mojito Libre is able to achieve that balance because it is not a flavored syrup, but a blend of fresh ingredients. “This is the actual mint and lime and sugar, perfectly balanced together. When you make this drink, it’s not a sugary, syrupy product. It’s the real Cuban drink.”
In addition to its mixer business, the company operates the largest pastry ingredient manufacturing business in the United States. It won, for the first time in U.S. history, the World Pastry Championship in 2002 and 2004. It actually was the pastry business that led Amoretti into one of its other beverage forays, pomegranate juice. The company produces a shelf-stable pomegranate concentrate, again for bartenders, that frees up refrigerator and freezer space required by most pomegranate concentrates, and provides a flavor that stands up to mixed drinks. Unlike ready-to-drink pomegranate juices, which become watered down as mixers, the pomegranate WONF is a full-strength product.
“We have created a pomegranate product that is shelf-stable, without preservatives, that delivers the beautiful taste and aroma of juice concentrate,” Barsoumian says. “It’s very strong and thick, and a very small amount gives [bartenders] a good pomegranate flavor.”
The company also manufactures pomegranate juice as an ingredient for beverage companies that want to use the trendy fruit in their products. To round out its extensive behind-the-bar lineup, the company produces Capriccio Exotic Island Smoothies, fruit blends that can be used in both mixed drinks and non-alcohol smoothies.
“It’s a new concept where we take fresh fruit and dehydrate a critical amount of the water out of it,” Barsoumian says. “Bartenders can use it to make daiquiris, Margaritas or smoothies.”
But it’s the Mojito that has people buzzing these days, and Barsoumian says it has met with enthusiastic response in its first few months on the market. She says it is most popular in markets such as California and metropolitan areas around the country that already are familiar with the Mojito.
“It’s extremely refreshing,” she says of the popular drink. “You almost think you’re tasting an exotic lemonade. It’s not an overwhelming drink. It’s very refreshing and cooling, and goes with almost anything.” BI