As should all startup entrepreneurs, Maven Table's Rachel Wanamaker and Kaleena Goldsworthy-Warnock know who their audience is.
"The home drinker," Wanamaker says. "Our intent is to help people have elevated cocktails in their own spaces — we like to say it's the perfect cocktail for the lazy perfectionist."
Wanamaker and Goldsworthy-Warnock are owners and operating managers of Maven Table, which offers mixers and bitters they say make it possible for one to enjoy, at home, a cocktail that is not only restaurant-quality, but made with healthier ingredients.
"Mixers is kind of like 'Drinking at Home 101,'" Goldsworthy-Warnock says. "The bitters is like the master's degree program."
Wanamaker and Goldsworthy-Warnock say Maven Table is the marriage of businesses they each owned and ran prior to 2023. Wanamaker, a Michigan native who earned an undergraduate degree in nutrition and health from Lee University, had Nourish Point, a vendor of healthy prepared meals.
Goldsworthy-Warnock says she came to Chattanooga from her native upstate New York "on a whim." She says she spent five years tending bar at the former Flying Squirrel before launching Bitter Bottle in 2017.
Wanamaker says that in 2020, she and a couple of partners bought Olive Chattanooga oils and vinegars from its retiring owner.
"(Olive) had the best sources for balsamic and olive oils," she says. "We turned the business on its head, rebranded (to Maven Table), changed everything."
At the same time, Goldsworthy-Warnock says, she was looking to unload Bitter Bottle.
"I had another job, and a child I couldn't get into child care (owing to) the pandemic," she recalls. "I explored selling, but I didn't want to see a bigger brand just swallow it up."
Goldsworthy-Warnock said Wanamaker was one of the people she approached about buying Bitter Bottle. Wanamaker says she suggested to Goldsworthy-Warnock that they partner instead.
"I'd closed Nourish Point in September 2022," says Wanamaker, who by then was the solo operating manager of Maven Table. "Kaleena reached out to me in October, and it just made sense to bring Bitter Bottle to Maven Table and be a solid presence in the drink space."
Maven Table's owners say balsamic vinegar is the only ingredient in each of its mixers, which are infused and blended into classic cocktail flavors. Wanamaker concedes that it sounds odd at first.
"It does kind of break your brain," she says, "but balsamic vinegar, while acidic, is sweet.
"And it's probiotic," she adds, making it a far healthier option than the typical mixer. Used without alcohol, she says, the mixers and bitters make a solid mocktail as well.
"A lot of people are looking for an all-natural, low-sugar alternative for an unwinding cocktail in the evening," she says. "This allows you that healthy option."
Wanamaker says Maven Table is "very fortunate" to have a partnership with a grower in Italy for production of its balsamic vinegar.
"All our stuff comes from one farm, one grove and is barrel-aged," she says.
Likewise, Goldsworthy-Warnock adds, she sources only organic herbs and spices for Maven Table's bitters. She admits that the way Maven Table does business is "harder than it could be," but that's by design.
"There are easier ways to do it, and time is important," she says, "but quality is really important to us. The quality you start with is paramount."
As they ready to close the book on Maven Table's first year, the owners say sales have been "steady and growing." They add that they're "booked solid" through the holidays, including the Chattanooga and Oddstory holiday markets and similar events in Nashville.
"Not a moment to spare," says Wanamaker, who adds that they also sell at maventable.com.
Nor is 2024 likely to start at a leisurely pace, Goldsworthy-Warnock says, as Maven Table has new product offerings on tap.
"It's very exciting — three new lines of cocktail products and accessories to complement what we're currently doing," she says. "We're ambitious people, very passionate about what we're doing. We believe in what we're making, and we've got big plans."