In the bag: Pope’s Kitchen launches new line of cocktail pouches this weekend

In 2010, when he was working as a teacher and running his catering business, Clark Pope decided to go full-throttle and jump into business for himself. While still working his day jobs and armed with his hot sauce and southern barbeque sauce, he launched Pope’s Kitchen, working out of a shared kitchen and peddling his sauces at Farmers’ Markets and shops that sold specialty foods.

Pope’s is a known name in the local food scene. His line of hot sauces, bloody Mary mixes, and cocktail syrups can be found in stores all over Northeast Ohio and at the Merchant's Market at Legacy Village in Lyndhurst.

“Our motto is, ‘It’s how you’d make it if you had the time,’” says Pope of his hand-made products. Now, more than a decade after launching Pope’s Kitchen, he is taking the time to create a new line of cocktail drink pouches called Pope’s Cocktails—just in time for the summer outdoor party and concert scene and available at area restaurants, bars, and stores.

Pope teamed up with childhood friend and Academy Tavern owner Christopher Butler and started making cocktails out of the bar's kitchen.

Pope showed up in late May with some homemade lemonade and used Butler’s liquor to create some cocktails. With the restaurants and bars closed, Pope had the idea to package the cocktail in foil pouches and sell them to-go.  

“It was a lot of work,” he recalls of the endeavor. “I was using a funnel [to mix the alcohol] and put them in eight-ounce bags. But people loved it.”

Pope sold his cocktails out of Academy Tavern while also working on liquor permits and talking to distributors, marketing companies, and packaging companies to make Pope’s Cocktails widely available.

Almost exactly a year after Pope started making cocktail pouches out of the Academy kitchen, he is launching a larger endeavor.  Starting this weekend, on Friday, May 14, Pope’s Cocktails will be available for purchase at Academy Tavern and World Wines and Liquor in Mentor. He says he hopes to soon have the pouches available in additional local stores and restaurants.

Pope now has three varieties: Mojito, made with rum, cane sugar, fresh mint, and lime juice; Blueberry Lemonade, made with fresh blueberries and vodka; and Whiskey Smash, made with whiskey, lemon, and cane sugar. Later this summer, he says he’ll be adding a Margarita to the list. All the cocktails come in recyclable 12.7-ounce pouches— the equivalent to two cocktails—and contain 10% alcohol. The pouches have resealable spouts.

Like all of Pope’s products, he says he uses nothing but fresh and pure ingredients—no flavorings or colorings added. “Not only do you know what’s in it, you can go to the store and buy these ingredients,” he says.

Pope’s Cocktails will retail for between $6 and $6.50 in stores, and $10 to $12 in bars and restaurants.

Academy Tavern, 12800 Larchmere Blvd., is hosting a launch party this Friday, May 14 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., but there is limited capacity because of COVID-19 safety protocols. Pope’s Cocktails will be available for takeout and on-site consumption. Academy will be running specials on the drinks all weekend.

Pope will be at World Wines and Liquor, 8760 Mentor Ave., Mentor, on Friday, May 21 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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