Today we're happy to introduce a small business that solves a crucial problem for many people with diabetes... You know, trying to find mixed drink options that won't raise our blood sugars the way regular cocktails typically do.
Enter Be Mixed, a small business with a fresh approach to all-natural drink mixers in New York, started by two Harvard Business School friends. One of the founders, Jennifer Ross, is living with type 1 diabetes. She was tired of dealing with soaring sugar levels every time she went out for drinks, and at home settling for vodka sodas as the only option. So she set out to develop an all-natural, BG-friendly alternative.
Founded in September 2015, Be Mixed now offers three varieties -- margarita, ginger lime, and cucumber mint -- and is working on more tastes as time goes on. They are all: No sugar (and low-carb at only 3-5g per bottle!), zero calories, gluten-free and no preservatives. Right now, they have several dozen cocktail recipes posted at their site, including fun tea and frozen pop options. We had the chance to try out Be Mixed recently, and we share our thoughts below.
This is certainly a Small But Mighty diabetes startup, in our book. And with the Holidays here, it's a perfect gift idea too.
We're excited to be able to offer TWO FREE SAMPLE PACKS to a pair of lucky winners, so be sure to leave a comment below for your chance to win.
Behind This Diabetes Small Business
First, a quick Q&A with Be Mixed co-founder and D-peep Jennifer Ross:
DM) What is your diabetes story, Jennifer?
JR) I was diagnosed when I was 6, and it was a completely new experience for me and my whole family. Since I was so young at the time, my mom did a lot of the management, in terms of testing my blood sugar, giving me injections and counting my carbs.
I was actually the first person in my school to have type 1, and I remember my mom sitting outside my classroom for the first few weeks of school. As she and I both got more comfortable, she did a great job educating all of the staff and teachers so that I could have a normal experience, without her having to worry or sit outside all day.
My younger sister was then also diagnosed with type 1 when she was 12. By that time, I was 15 and she was very familiar with diabetes, so it wasn't as daunting for the family as when I was diagnosed.
What did you do professionally before starting Be Mixed?
I worked at Goldman Sachs in the Real Estate Principal Investment Group, which was a great experience. But I always knew that I wanted to do something entrepreneurial so I joined another startup called Fanvision focused on tech communication, and then went on to Harvard Business School. While there, I wasn't set on starting a company -- rather was just looking for a great cocktail that wasn't chalk full of sugar (or calories).
That's where I met Cristina Ros, and we actually sat near each other because our names are so close. Cristina had business experience herself; while in college, she founded the non-profit organization Circle of Women that builds secondary schools for girls in underserved communities like Wardak in Afghanistan, and she had worked on developing cross-company products to market as a bank’s social platform.
Our idea about healthy drink mixes came together and we eventually formed Be Mixed.
What kind of blood sugar effect did you experience when out drinking, that prompted this whole idea?
Obviously, alcohol effects everyone's blood sugar differently, but whenever I would have a fancy cocktail, which is full of sugar from the simple syrup, or a vodka soda with cranberry, I would see my blood sugar instantly spike and then drop suddenly a few hours later. With Be Mixed, I'm able to have a great-tasting drink without all of the added sugar and don't experience the extreme spikes.
I've been able to track all of this with my CGM, which just makes life so much easier!
Tell us a little bit about developing the products...?
We knew that taste was the most important thing so we spent a long time working with mixologists and doing focus groups to make sure that we made something delicious.
We're actually the first to market an all natural, zero-calorie, and delicious cocktail mixer. Be Mixed differs in that we don't have alcohol, artificial ingredients, preservatives, food coloring, or sugar. We also offer convenient one shot, one bottle “on-the-go” servings.
So unlike Skinny Girl or other low-cal drink brands, yours are just flavor mixes without the alcohol?
Correct. Our products don't contain alcohol (or agave or preservatives). We encourage 'creative license' for people to dream up their favorite cocktail using our mixers to complement premium spirits.
Where are your mixers currently sold?
A sample pack costs $33 and includes 12 of the four-ounce bottles, with each of the four-packs of each flavor. You can also buy a single flavor pack that includes a dozen bottles of your favorite for the same $33 pricetag.
Any plans to move beyond the Be Mixed drink products?
We are all about making the things we love better! Creating something that allows people to enjoy life and not have that feeling of "Aww, I shouldn’t be doing this!" -- which is how I felt whenever I indulged in a sugary cocktail -- brings such joy and excitement. We are very focused on Be Mixed but we can't help but daydream about the future, although we aren't sure what it holds just yet.
Are you also involved in any diabetes advocacy efforts?
I've been involved with the JDRF for many years. In high school I organized "Rock the Cure," a concert featuring Grammy-Award winner Michelle Branch. I'm also involved with SafeSittings.com, which my sister founded. That's an online database of babysitters who have type 1, who can really help families living with this condition, as they often have great difficulty finding someone to babysit who understands the dangers and details of diabetes.
OK, how about a quick Twitter version of what you might want the Diabetes Community to know?
Although having diabetes is a real drag and requires some serious life changes, it forces us to live the life that many people want to live in terms of limiting sugar, exercising and just being all-around more diligent. So that's an upside, right?
Product Review of Be Mixed
OK, to be honest: I'm more of a beer guy than a mixed drink kind of guy. I had tried to get a few friends with diabetes together to sample these Be Mixed mocktail experiments, but that didn't seem to work out over the past few months. So instead, I turned to my family. Both my non-diabetic wife Suzi and my Dad taste-tested them, while my mom -- who as many probably remember, is a longtime type 1 herself diagnosed at age 5 -- was our guinea pig for the carb-counting and BG effect.
We all got together one weekend in November and tried a number of their sample recipes, all by tantalizing names: Holiday Brew, Holiday Sangria, Apple Cider Ginger Shrub, Hot Toddy By Plated, Spiced Rum Pear Mojito, and Pomegranate Moscow Mule. Festive, for sure!
My mom tried out the mixed drinks, while my dad and I sampled the beer and margarita-style options -- like the Holiday Brew, where you combine beer with their ginger lime mix and fresh oranges.
My parents also took some of the product home for furthering testing (all in the name of science, of course!) Here's what we all found:
A Mixed Drink Lover's POV
My mom was quite satisfied, saying she "really enjoyed all of the flavors, some more than others." She pointed out that with a taste for really sweet drinks, she's usually struggling with the fact that everything she likes is pretty high-carb.
"With these, the only one I ever had to bolus a small amount for was the Sangria, and that was because I ate the fruit I put in it instead of discarding it," she said. "For a regular glass of Sangria at my local Mexican restaurant, it takes 3 units of insulin. This was much less, at just under a unit of insulin."
Bottom line: Same great taste of normal drinks, but fewer carbs and less insulin dosing fuss, by comparison.
"For me, these are well worth the money and I think it's a wonderful idea for anyone who likes mixed, flavored drinks," she said. "And for most, a few less calories can't hurt."
My mom did offer a suggestion to Be Mixed for their mail-order purchasing: beyond the variety pack that comes with one of each flavor, a "Buyer's Choice" option would be nice, to allow people to customize the flavors in their 12-bottle package.
Good idea, Mom!
Beer, Bourbon and Margarita Options
My dad and I weren't as enthusiastic as mom about the flavors we sampled.
We both used Blue Moon wheat bear to create the "Witches Brew," (that happens to be the exact same recipe for the "Summer Cocktail" posted earlier in the year, except for the fact that the summer version uses peaches which are less in season during the cooler months).
While we both enjoyed the drinks for the most part, we agreed that as beer fans, we'd rather just drink the stuff straight-up. We both also noted what seemed to be a "lemonade effect," or a feeling of unquenched thirst after the mixed drink.
My dad and I both also tried the margarita mix, and found that it tasted fine and just as good as a regular margarita! We also enjoyed the Old-Fashioned Manhattan drink, and had the same takeaway from it.
My wife Suzi, she tried out all of the three flavors with some soda water and enjoyed the taste of them all.
For the beer mix, I dosed for the roughly 7g for the half-beer itself + about a half unit for the Be Mixed ginger lime flavor. Of course with a regular ginger lime mixture, it likely would have been twice as much to dose for.
A blood sugar comparison wasn't the best at that time, as I was already running into the 200s that day. But I did observe that these drinks had a lesser effect on my BGs than normal "sugary" drinks consistently do. We had a good conversation about my mom's BG effects in comparison to mine.
So, that's something I can certainly say about Be Mixed -- it worked wonders in bringing our family together for a Diabetes-Friendly Happy Hour. That's an excellent idea now for the Holidays, no?!
But before you go ahead and buy your own sample pack, here's your chance to win one for free...
A Holiday DMProducts Giveaway
Just leave a comment below, and be sure to include the codeword "DM-Mixed" somewhere in your comment so we know you're in it to win it.
Since our comment system requires log-in, you may also email us your entry directly at email@example.com, using the subject line "DM-Mixed."
You have until Friday, Dec. 9, 2016, at 5pm PST to enter.
This contest is now closed. Congrats to Ann Kennedy in Minnesota and Michelle Fries in Wisconsin who were selected by Random.org as our winners. Please reach out to us with your contact info in order to coordinate prize shipments. Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting!