Why you should care
Because everyone deserves to drink and be merry.
Harlem-based comedian Jo Young is on a quest to lose 10 pounds. She’s halfway there, but it hasn’t been easy. “I’m a lover of cocktails and margaritas, and that has been the hardest part,” she says. Young, like many waist-watching women, loves a nightcap. But while she longs for a bit of salt on the rim, she says she’s less keen on gaining weight.
Cue Cristina Ros Blankfein and Jennifer Ross, recent Harvard Business School grads with a thirst for delicious after-hours drinks but no patience for sugar. Discovering that they were both on a perpetual quest to lower their liquid glucose intake, they decided to shake things up with a line of natural, zero-calorie cocktail mixers called Be Mixed. Ross — a type 1 diabetic — and Blankfein found themselves often reaching for the lowest-calorie cocktail they could find: vodka sodas. Having a lower-sugar diet was at the core of their inspiration. As friends and classmates, they would throw dinner parties and enjoyed infusing healthy options into recipes without compromising taste, but they were disappointed that the same concept “didn’t really transcend to making cocktails.” So they set off to combine natural, quality ingredients that would taste delicious and be pretty to boot. The women spent a year and a half developing their product, working with food scientists and bartenders to come up with three versatile sugar-free flavors, one of which they tested with the help of a Harvard grant.
The drinks can be mixed with spirits, sparkling water, soda, bubbly or even beer to come up with a variety of tastes.
This summer, their four-ounce bottles that come in three flavors — cucumber mint, ginger lime and margarita — hit a New York City test market, complemented by online sales, and they now sell in various retailers like Whole Foods. They cost $33 for 12 bottles, and an official launch — which is why you haven’t heard about this yet — is still to be determined. By using natural fruit, vegetable and herb extracts, Blankfein says, Be Mixed aims to replace the cocktail staple of simple syrup. The drinks can be mixed with spirits, sparkling water, soda, bubbly or even beer to come up with a variety of tastes.
But can cocktails be stirred up by zero-calorie solutions? Robert Hess, a Seattle-based cocktail evangelist and host of the online video series The Cocktail Spirit, says that doing so means the flavor’s “almost never right” and “can mask the fact that the big calorie component is the booze.” Rather than risk it, he says, he’d rather have fewer or smaller great cocktails. Young, on the other hand, eagerly asks, “Do I get to try it?”
Blankfein agrees that no product is a solution for everyone. Still, she and Jennifer are doing their best to advance what they call a “Clean Drinks Movement,” absorb cocktail-lovers’ feedback and blend it into their mixes, while planning to unveil new flavors soon.