Ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails are one of the fastest-growing sectors of the alcohol industry. San Diego is an integral part of that rise, with multiple canned cocktail companies based in the county.
Melograno Cocktails of San Marcos is one of the newer entries to the market. Founders Shiva and Reza Mortazavi are trying to bring their premium stamp to the market. Recently, we touched base with Shiva to see how the company is doing in this moment.
Cheers! Hi Shiva, thanks for helping me to introduce Melograno to North County. On your website, melogranococktails.com, the first mission statement introduces your ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails as “as an alternative to hard seltzers, wine and spirits.” That tells me what they aren’t but not what they are! How would you describe what you’re offering to someone who has never heard of your brand?
Shiva: Melograno Cocktails is a luxury-crafted cocktail. Our cocktails are 100% blue agave-based, meticulously handcrafted for those who are looking for a sophisticated take on a classic cocktail recipe in a ready-to-drink, convenient slim can.
The “100 percent blue agave base” makes us truly an alternative to what you’ve seen in the last few years, as RTD cocktails have been trending. Instead of distilling agave, we ferment it, which creates a light, sessionable and refreshing base for all of our classic cocktail recipes. It’s an entirely new category.
Our customer is someone who likes to enjoy a cocktail but in a sophisticated way that is also convenient and portable.
Cheers! What got you interested in creating a canned cocktail in the first place? What’s the backstory?
Shiva: Both my husband and I have true entrepreneurial spirits. We always knew we wanted to create a brand together and build something from the ground up. During our travels, at friends and family gatherings, and even at upscale events, we noticed your classic offerings: the staple canned seltzers, beers or mixed cocktails. We wanted to create something that was intentionally different from the rest. Something that you could hold in your hand that exuded luxury and design and that tasted delicious. Why can’t a canned cocktail do both?
We knew that if we created something with an outstanding package design, more complex and flavorful options, and quality ingredients, we could elevate the image of the entire RTD category. And early feedback indicates that we did just that.
Cheers! I understand travel has been part of the origin story of Melograno. Why decide to base your company here in San Marcos?
Shiva: It’s simple. We decided on San Diego because San Diego is home. I grew up here, and we both reside in San Marcos.
Melograno means “Pomegranate” in Italian, and our travels around the world inspired us when creating Melograno. Italy holds such a special place in my and Reza’s hearts.
Enjoying our cocktails is like taking a sip around the world. We can transport you visually to Europe, Asia, Africa and Ancient Persia, and through our flavors, you can taste some of the favorites of Mexico, Cuba and America.
Cheers! Four flavors are available: Pomegranate Cosmopolitan, Melon Margarita, Orange Blossom Martini and Cucumber Lime Mojito. How did you decide on these cocktails as your initial offering?
Shiva: We chose fruits, vegetables and herbs we grew up with in Persian households that also had a great sensory memory attached to them. Pomegranates are the jewel fruit of Iran — our home country. It is shared with family and friends, especially during the Winter Solstice.
Orange Blossom is a delicacy used in bread, baked goods and beverages our grandparents and parents made. It imparts both a taste and a fragrant floral note to the martini.
Cucumber, Lime and Mint are consumed for breakfast with a cup of black tea, tomatoes, feta cheese, hard-boiled eggs and bread. These ingredients, when combined, deliver a layered combination of sweetness and refreshment. This elevates our mojito and gives it unexpected complexity in a canned cocktail recipe.
We use cantaloupe in our Melon Margarita, a fruit made into a smoothie in the summer and enjoyed with family and friends.
Cheers! You’ve obviously thought a lot about the design of the cans, which have a distinctive pattern design. Where did the style of Melograno come from, and how would you describe the brand’s vibe?
Shiva: In a word, the vibe of Melograno is luxury.
As far as design goes, we want our canned cocktails to be a statement piece that transports you. Take a sip that can take you from the tilework of Europe, the ceramics of the Far East, the fabrics of West Africa and the patterns of the Middle East.
Our flagship design is the Pomegranate Cosmopolitan — a nod to Persian culture and heritage in recipe and design. This pattern is seen in Persian mosaics … walking through the streets of Iran, especially in places like Isfahan, you can see these types of patterns on the buildings.
Cheers! What has the experience been like building this product and brand together as a married couple?
Shiva: We have complementary skills. Reza would describe me as a serial entrepreneur with endless curiosity and creativity. Creating a new product like this allows you to engage your senses in product development. We both really enjoyed this phase. Lots of tastings and liquid development sessions! Reza is truly a leader in all things operations and raising funding — business is his passion.
We worked together on every aspect of building the business, learning about manufacturing, sourcing, logistics, state laws and regulations — all of it new and exciting to learn and master.
Cheers! What did we miss? Anything else you want readers to know about Melograno right now?
Shiva: Look for us! It’s a crowded category, and there are many options that people settle for on both taste and aesthetics. With Melograno, you receive a delicious canned cocktail that elevates every occasion.
Cheers! What is the best way for SoCal residents to try or buy your canned cocktails?
Shiva: We have a nice lineup [of locations] that we are excited about, including the San Diego Zoo, Total Wine, Fairmont Grand Del Mar, Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa, SDCM Restaurant Group (Kettner Exchange, Firehouse American Eatery & Lounge, Camino Riviera), Cohn Restaurant Group (Vin De Syrah, The Prado, Pacific Social) and Belmont Park Entertainment (Beach House Tequila + Taqueria, Draft, Cannonball).