THOUGH SHE GREW up in the cool climate of London, Ontario, Maxine Henderson spent many summers with her parents in their native Kerala, in South India, where the heat could be brutal. To cool off, the family would sip on cups of nimbu pani, a citrus-based drink made with cane sugar, spices, and black salt, which they bought from little carts at public markets. But Henderson never dreamed she would one day have her own line of canned beverages.
Raised in a traditional Indian home where her mother spoiled her with tasty curries and biryani, Henderson went on to complete her degree in engineering at the University of Western Ontario, later getting a job offer from Motorola in Atlanta. There, she met and married Atlanta Hawks forward and former IU basketball standout Alan Henderson. She put her career on hold to start a family, which eventually grew to four children. All the while, she craved the flavors of her childhood. “Whenever I’d go shopping, I just noticed that there was white space on the shelves where there should have been more options for Indian products, especially beverages,” she says.
When the couple moved back to Indiana and Alan founded a spirits company celebrating African-American distillers and bartenders, Maxine got the inspiration for Bollygood, a line of carbonated nimbu pani, with spices like ginger, mint, and cumin, as well as Himalayan pink salt. Having a beverage-industry consultant in the house is definitely refreshing. “Alan has helped me to avoid some of the aches and pains of starting a business,” she says. “He’s always encouraged me to go for it.”