Mixers are made to mellow the bitterness and bite of liquor so oftentimes incorporate sugar and artificial flavoring. Even the most basic tonic water averages between 20 and 30 grams of sugar per standard (12-ounce) serve. Many pre-batched cocktail mixes are even more sugary. New Brooklyn-based brand, AVEC (French for “with”), plans to refresh the category with healthier carbonated mixers driven by premium ingredients.
“The world of food and beverage has changed dramatically in recent years but what people mix with their spirits has not,” AVEC co-founder Alex Doman tells us. “Old school mixers are either full of sugar and nasties or tasteless, but currently take up 85% of the shelf space. AVEC’s mission was to re-think the category for the modern day—creating a healthier, tastier and more interesting alternative.”
AVEC’s offerings all have less than four grams of sugar each and use all-natural essences and zests to recreate beverages the brand’s founders, Doman and Denetrias “Dee” Charlemagne, tasted while traveling or drinking around town. At launch, AVEC is selling flavors including Lemongrass & Yuzu, Hibiscus & Pomegranate, Grapefruit & Pomelo, Ginger and Jalapeño & Blood Orange iterations. The cans come in six packs and mix well with various spirits—and Doman and Charlemagne have offered the ideal pairing on the backs of each can.
“We started out by making recipes at home and doing lots and lots of taste tests with friends—any excuse to have a party!” Doman tells us. “We then narrowed it down and began to work with a formulator to get a professional product. Each of our five flavors goes after the most popular highball drinks. So, for example, Yuzu & Lime replaces the need to add a splash of lime to a club soda, and a hint of lemongrass gives you interesting flavors with zero calories. Grapefruit & Pomelo goes after the traditional Paloma, but only has three grams of sugar and 15 calories in comparison to the 22 grams of sugar and 100 calories in the same serving of grapefruit juice.”
Nowadays there is a healthier alternative to nearly everything once considered a guilty pleasure and this mindset has permeated almost every corner of the supermarket, coffee shops, and a large percentage of breweries. Still, Doman and Charlemagne were amazed to see that many bars still use generic syrups, sugary juices and even energy drinks when serving cocktails.
“Working in the industry, it quickly became obvious that we are in the middle of a food and beverage revolution,” Doman continues. “The consumer has changed rapidly in the last five years and the amount of innovation in the space has been astronomical. People are getting ever-more demanding—wanting things to be tastier, healthier and more sustainable. Whether it is the rise of craft beer, matcha bars, salad bars, alternative milks and produce, or seltzers… the list is truly endless. You can imagine my surprise when, running a project for the UK’s largest bar chain, I realized that basically nothing had changed at bars. The same old mixers were being used: soda water, tonic water, Coca Cola, juices and Red Bull were still the most popular. The same people who were telling me that they would only have oat milk with their coffee were being offered sugary, artificial and calorific mixers with their alcohol.”
The truth is, even many higher-end tonics and mixers are made with the same sugary components, but done so without chemical preservatives or stabilizers. AVEC forgoes these altogether to produce something the health-conscious crowd will enjoy and that bartenders will be pleased to experiment with.
“We realized mixers hadn’t caught the wave of innovation; they were too sugary, too high in calories, too bland. Existing innovation has focused on just creating better versions of existing mixers—aka higher quality tonics or soda or traditional cocktail flavors like a Bloody Mary or a margarita,” Charlemagne adds. “Our mixers innovate against existing flavor profiles—like ginger beer—and try to improve them, or at least match them for flavor and innovate around how we get that flavor without adding lots of sugar.”
Images courtesy of AVEC