The two guys work together like the practiced team that they are. Their elevator speech is sharp. Then they segue smoothly into a clear presentation. They look at each other. They smile. They laugh. They finish each other’s sentences.
Meet J.D. Mitchell and Eric Wentworth, co-creators and corporate co-owners of Modica, billed as “the world’s first superfood cocktail and mocktail mixer.”
Modica, the team proudly asserts, is a gay-owned local company, certified by NGLEC, the largest advocacy organization dedicated to expanding economic opportunities and advancements for LGBT people and the exclusive certifying body for LGBTQ-owned businesses.
These guys obviously love what they do. And they appear to care about each other. They’ve been on this project since it started as an experimental gig while they were fellow students in the University of Louisville’s Entrepreneurial Master of Business Administration program.
So, a reporter has to ask: Are they a couple? Married?
They echo each other in a big laugh. Nope! Just business partners and friends.
And there is a Pride Month lesson for us all: There’s no reason to assume that our LGBTQ+ friends are somehow basically different from the rest of us. Do straight, cisgender business partners become lovers? Sure. It can happen. Is this one of the first questions you’re likely to ask them? Probably not.
So let’s move on, honoring the creativity and spirit that led two then-20-somethings to create a product that arguably disrupts the bottled mixer market.
They met in their UofL grad program in 2016, J.D. and Eric said during a casual interview over samples of their drinks. They took night classes while working full-time: J.D. at an investment firm, Eric as a bartender, mixologist, owner and founder at The Hub on Frankfort Avenue.
Combining work and grad school could be a slog, they said. At the end of the day, they often got together for a cocktail. After a long day, they explain in their well rehearsed presentation, they didn’t want to put a lot of effort into constructing a tasty cocktail. Eric didn’t want to muddle or infuse anything. And J.D., as he famously explains, can barely squeeze a lime on a good day.
They prowled grocery stores in pursuit of a quality mixer and found loads of of preservatives, toxic-sounding ingredients. and a ton of sugar. Inspired by the absence of what they really wanted, they came up with the idea for Modica: A healthy, flavorful mixer equally suited to building tasty cocktails or equally flavorful non-alcoholic mocktails.
Their creation is built with “superfood” ingredients like aloe, turmeric, ginger, tart cherries, and more traditional ingredients, all naturally-sourced and stoked with vitamins, and electrolytes. No preservatives, no fake flavors.
The coined the product name Mōdica from the Latin “modicum,” a small amount of something great. They ramped up quickly, creating labels and trade information with the help of Eric’s sister Cat Wentworth, a Yale University arts graduate.
Made with a reasonably short list of ingredients, Modica mixers typically contain water, cane sugar, fruit concentrates, electrolytes and vitamins.
Want to try some? You know you do! You can find them at many local wine shops, bars and restaurants, and grocers including Rainbow Blossom, Paul’s, and some Kroger wine shops. A 16-ounce glass bottle, which holds enough to make 10 cocktails or mocktails, sells for $20 on the website. They’re often a couple of bucks less at retail. There’s a full “Find Us” directory on the Modica website at drinkmodica.com/pages/store-locator.
I tasted two soon-to-market flavors with Eric and J.D., crafted into simple fizzes with sparkling water.
I thought the blueberry lavender lemon drop flavor was very good. A pretty reddish-garnet color, it brought appetizing fruity and floral scents to the party. It would make a great cocktail with vodka or even bourbon or rye. Or, of course, sipped with bubbly water as a non-alcoholic fizz.
The cacao espresso martini had me at the first sniff: Rich, bold, dark coffee flavors leapt out of the dark cola-color fluid, and forward coffee and distant cocoa hit my palate upside the taste buds.
These two new flavors should be on the market this summer, Eric said. Meanwhile, I was equally impressed with the three current flavors, tasted later at home.
The Cucumber Aloe Margarita mixer is designed for tequila but also goes well with gin, vodka, or plain club soda. I fashioned a cocktail with equal parts mixer, Sipsmith London Dry Gin, and Topo Chico sparkling mineral water plus a slice of cucumber. Distinct cucumber flavors and slight sweetness made this one a winner.
The Tart Cherry Old Fashioned mixer, as the name implies, makes a great instant old fashioned: Just add bourbon to its fresh, appealing cherry flavor. Fair enough: A little mixer, a little more Old Forester 86, and a seasonal farmers’ market strawberry popped in made a fine version. Topping it off with Topo Chico mellowed it out for day drinking.
Finally, all the superfoods meet and mingle their anti-inflammatory properties in the Turmeric Ginger Mule mixer, a powerfully aromatic, sunny yellow ginger-forward potion that you can mix with vodka, rum, tequila, or gin or knock back with a little iced sparkling or warm water. Here’s to your health!
Modica Superfood Cocktail Mix