Tried it, fixed it, then liked it: The Blackberry Bourbon Smash

I had actually never heard of a blackberry smash drink until last weekend, when a tasty-looking photo caught my eye on a menu. I had gone with some friends to a what-shall-remain-unnamed chain restaurant and it looked like one of those drinks that would have a lot of fruit and where I could cut out the sugary crap and still have a pretty tasty drink. I ordered it without simple syrup and my friend ordered it as-is.

Both drinks were total crapola (too many fake sweet liquor flavors and really nothing fresh), but my friend’s was literally undrinkable. It was so sweet it made my blood sugar rise just looking at it, and when I tasted it it hurt my teeth. She sent it back.

Classic D4D inspiration, of course.

A week later, I was perusing some of the drink recipes I’d collected on my “Drink” Pinterest board, and a recipe for a “blackberry bourbon smash” caught my eye. It had a grand total of four ingredients, almost guaranteeing I wouldn’t even lose my attention mid-recipe. It looked tasty. Time for my first D4D recipe experiment.

I made the drink last night and adapted it a bit, and what I came out with in the end was pretty damn good (and I had company who can attest to this). So, I bring you the sugar-free (and way more kickass, IMO) D4D Blackberry Bourbon Smash.

TAKE 1: FOLLOWING THE RECIPE

The Pinterest recipe called for the following ingredients:

  • Handful fresh blackberries
  • A few sprigs of fresh mint
  • 2 oz bourbon
  • Crushed or shaved ice
  • Simple syrup in case you’re not a big fan of straight bourbon

I followed the recipe to the letter, and came out with a drink that looked like this:

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Take 1 – basically a straight up shot of bourbon on ice. Nope.

If that looks like bourbon on the rocks to you, then we’re on the same page. I didn’t even have to try it to know I wouldn’t like it. (Now, if you’re a hard core bourbon drinker, yay for you – you’d probably have loved this)

TAKE 2: FUCK THE RECIPE AND DO WHATEVER SOUNDS GOOD

So I went to work fixing her up, D4D style. I added 2 tbsp Stevia simple syrup  and then added about a half cup of seltzer water. Then I added a little more ice and mixed everything up so the fruit mix at the bottom was incorporated throughout the drink.

BOOM.

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Take 2 – sooooo good.

THAT shit was really good. I had more than one. Okay, maybe a few. It tasted fresh but not super fruity and the bourbon paired nicely with the blackberries and mint. And of course, who doesn’t like crushed ice. Great summer drink.

And, I watched my blood sugar throughout the evening and while there is never a perfectly controlled situation with a diabetic, I don’t believe these drinks affected it in any substantial way. Win all around.

D4D BLACKBERRY BOURBON SMASH

Ingredients:

  • Fresh blackberries
  • Fresh mint
  • Bourbon (I recommend splurging for some nice Bourbon. I live in Colorado so I’m spoiled, because you can’t throw a mountain goat without hitting a distillery anymore so I tend to get the good local stuff)
  • Crushed or shaved ice  (I do think in this case the consistency of the ice made the drink in large part, so this matters. The author recommended getting shaved ice at Whole Foods for free – but the Whole Foods I went to gave me crushed ice in a small bag, which you can pretty much get anywhere (and FYI, you can get a giant bag of crushed ice at Sonic for $2).
  • Seltzer water 
  • Stevia simple syrup (to make my Stevia simple syrup, I do a ratio of 1/8 Stevia crystals to 1 cup water but you can experiment based on your preferences for sweetness – or if you’re lazy AF you can use liquid Stevia from a bottle)

Recommended steps:

  1. Mash ~5 blackberries and 3 decent sized sprigs of mint together to make a jam-like consistency (use a masher or your fist or whatever you have on hand). Pour into bottom of medium-sized glass.
  2. Fill glass about 3/4 full with crushed ice.
  3. Add 2 oz bourbon
  4. Add 2 tbsp of Stevia simple syrup
  5. Top with about a half cup of seltzer water
  6. Mix, ensuring blackberry mix is distributed evenly throughout (and btw, I think this would be great if you followed the same steps but put everything in a shaker and then poured it more martini style, if you’re not a fan of all the crap floating in your drink)
  7. Enjoy while sitting on a patio.

 

 

 

Random handy tips & tricks: Installment 1

By necessity, diabetics are a pretty resourceful lot. Being a healthy diabetic requires a shitload of supplies and a level of preparedness usually reserved for a girl scout (raise your hand if anyone has ever called you that when you hauled out your bag of diabetic crapola to calibrate/adjust a sensor/inject, etc.). Having a fickle/dead organ can result in some fun surprises, most often at highly inopportune times (my favorite diabetic surprise so far was having a low while in the middle of negotiating the purchase of a vehicle and having to explain why I was consuming Skittles while signing $30k+ of my life away – I really like to keep it classy) and I’ve found the more prepared I am, the less intrusive my disease needs to be.

Now that I’ve launched the blog, I’ve become a little more woke to my day to day coffee/cocktail consumption routine, and have noted some of the little tricks I’ve learned that make my life easier and the disease less obnoxious. These are aggregated both through my own trial and error, but also from reading learnings from other diabetics and diabetic blogs, so the credit belongs fully to the community.  These are by no means comprehensive and this is an evolving process, so I’m loosely calling this Installment 1.

Oh, and BTW – please leave your own learnings in the comments! We can keep this discussion rolling.

Anything in liquid sugar form is a fucking PITA for my pancreas. What I mean by this is that for diabetics, managing sugar intake is the name of the game, period, right? And I’ve found, in my limited experience, that managing sugar in liquid form is extraordinarily difficult because it absorbs much more quickly into the bloodstream and it’s nearly impossible for any short-acting insulin to keep up in order to manage it (unless you really time an injection/bolus carefully). Therefore, from the perspective of a blogger writing about things in liquid form, one of the main goals of my recommendations, recipes, ideas, etc. will be to avoid sugary liquid in any form as much as possible. The good news is that there are a lot of ways to swap/skip those ingredients, as well as several methods to slow down the rate of absorption so it’s much more manageable if you really must consume sugar.

Artificial sweeteners in varying forms have changed my life. I’m going to talk about these a LOT, because they are my go-to replacements for a lot of sugary ingredients. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I’m NOT A DOCTOR and I am aware there are mixed reviews on artificial sweeteners and their potential affects on health. In fact, here’s an ADA overview of a few, or feel free to google “artificial sweeteners and Diabetes” and go to town. Ultimately, these are just my opinions and you should do what’s right for your own health.

My personal favorite of all of the sweetener options is Stevia in its varying forms; the research indicates that it’s the most natural option (because it’s literally plant-derived) and to me, has the least chemical flavor. I use it in almost everything I make.

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Varying Stevia options currently in my cabinet, both in crystal and liquid form. Most of these can be found at any major grocery store.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention another flavor assist: Sugar-free Torani syrup. Anyone who has had fancy coffee drinks with some kind of flavor added has had Torani, which, as far as I know, is the most widely used brand of syrup for flavoring coffee drinks nationwide. And because there is a god, Torani makes a ton of sugar-free flavors that are GREAT. More on Torani and its amazing-ness coming in other posts.

I carry my sweetener of choice with me, everywhere I go. I cannot tell you how many times a couple of Stevia packets have saved my ass. And, if you’re thinking “I don’t want to carry extra shit” — for those diabetic girl scouts, are a couple of square sized packets really going to push you over the edge in terms of space management? I mean, really.

Here’s a couple examples of why these things save my ass:

  1. I like to go to fancy, pretentious new coffee shops to try their espresso or cold brew because I love good coffee and I like trying all the new roasts in my vicinity. I’m also a coffee snob, but not hard core enough to drink coffee black; I like a little cream and sweetener in it (and I’m assuming most of you are wusses like me because places like Starbucks are still in business). Because these places are so pretentious, they often only offer “organic agave nectar hand-picked by your local dude with a beard and a trucker cap” and they believe in minimalism, so if you don’t want agave because you can’t consume liquid sugar, you can pretty much suck it. Hey, look at that! I’ll just surreptitiously pull out my Stevia packet, sneak half into my coffee when no one’s looking, and enjoy my snobby coffee like a champion.
  2. Wayyy more to come on this later, but when I go out and have drinks, many times it’s at places that don’t actually have artificial sweeteners on hand if I ask them to cut sugary ingredients out of drinks. Think: bartender at club who is like “WTF dude you’re at a skeevy club and you want Sweet & Low? Are you fucking kidding me?”. I don’t want to suffer through something bitter and horrible because I’m at a skeevy club, so voila! Order gin & soda & lime and add Stevia, enjoy excellent drink as though you are an excellent dancer.

And, I keep my sweetener and the rest of my shit classy. Even though I’m making jokes about girl scouts, the truth is that if you’re a diabetic and you plan to make a night of it drinking/clubbing, you can’t be a dumbass because alcohol and diabetes have some issues when running in parallel. If I plan on really making a night of it, I will always make sure I have the right stuff with me to deal with a severe high or low. But I do like to keep it classy, and I’m not going to haul around my Harry Potter purse if I actually plan to dance, which is why I love my Myabetic purse. I’m not getting paid to say anything about Myabetic and there are plenty of blogs out there touting their amazingness so I’ll keep it short – my point is that there are plenty of ways to be a classy, drinking diabetic without again, having to sacrifice much of anything, including style.

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My Myabetic purse with all my crap (note, importantly, Stevia packets on left which are always in there). You can use the cross body strap or remove it and just use the wrist strap.

I really would have thought this was all a no-brainer and maybe it is for you, but I can’t tell you how many diabetics I recently surprised at a Type 1 social in Denver when I whipped out my handy Stevia packet to add to my sugar-free drink.

I’ll see you at the club, sweetener in hand.

A story of creation

This is the inaugural post for Drinking for Diabetics, and I’ve decided I’m going to use it to share with you the reason this blog came to be.

Truly, there’s probably more than one reason — including the fact that I like writing Onion-style commentary about everything and needed an outlet for my snark. But this particular post is a story about the bedrock of D4D. It’s a story about a game.

Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve only been a diabetic for 3 years. Compared to many of my colleagues who’ve been battling highs and lows since they could walk, that barely makes me legitimate. I haven’t been in DKA or had to crawl into a store foaming at the mouth asking for a Coke, and I haven’t had to use my Glucagon yet (and God willing, never will).  I still care about the scars on my stomach from injections or equipment, and I still sometimes forget I have a disease at all. Cross my newbie status with my winning Type A personality and my intrinsic hatred for the health insurance industry, and you’ve got basically a pharma-hating, needle-waving OCD lunatic.

But having this personality also means I care very much about my health, and I have been very proactive in learning everything I can about my disease and how to ensure I live the longest life possible under the circumstances. I pay careful attention to my actions and how they affect my blood sugar, and I have found I enjoy experimenting with different food and drink and exercise to see how it affects me.

Once I got over being terrified I was going to accidentally kill myself by consuming a bagel, this experimentation actually became fun. And this fun included reintroducing my love for trying new food, and my love for excellent cocktails, back into my life. And, let’s be honest – sometimes a girl just wants a fucking Sonic Blast. So my focus shifted from a determination to stay alive to a determination to figure out, to the last unit, how to consume that Sonic Blast (or, cough, french fries) without seeing a significant spike in my blood sugar.

As you can imagine, eating or drinking out will at times involve our friends behind the bar and in the restaurant industry, who have had a variety of reactions to my varied requests for certain things. Sometimes I just had to ask for something to be low-sugar and things went great; other times I had to play the diabetes card because someone was being a jerk. Some of them were awesome and some were not – and some were terrified. And, because I’ve got a little bit of asshole in me and one facet of my career involves education, these engagements have become a game for me. I call this game something like “what the fuck happens when the diabetic orders a drink?”

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A successful outcome at Wild Standard (Boulder, CO) where their drink bases were citrus, rather than sugary fruit juice. (FYI – a citrus base like lemon or lime juice will ALWAYS work better for blood sugar management, and it’s just freaking healthier)

Here’s an example of the game. It’s kind of like a create your own adventure, actually, now that I think about it.

  1. Enter bar/restaurant, peruse cocktail menu (I don’t drink beer and have been off wine lately) for potential drinks that aren’t 90% lemonade or high-fructose soda product. Either (a) identify option where I can swap ingredients to something lower in sugar so I don’t end up accidentally drinking the equivalent of a Coke, or (b) decide to try to work with waitstaff & bartender to create something my body can manage.
  2. Let’s pretend I chose option b, work with the bartender. If the waitstaff has time and the bartender looks friendly and like they can handle drinks with more than 2 ingredients, challenge them to create something low-sugar for me that is great. This request has had wildly varied outcomes, depending on both bartender and wait staff. Occasionally, (1) I get a great drink that makes the waitstaff proud and my friends jealous, and the bar/restaurant gets added to my mental map of places to return… but more often than not, however, one of two things happens: (2) I’m informed, condescendingly, that didn’t I know liquor has sugar in it and my best bet if I want something low in sugar (sniffing haughtily) is to just get a soda water and vodka (YUM! glad I came all the way to this fancy restaurant to drink nail polish for $12!); OR (3) I actually get someone so stubborn they are like YOU DRINK WHAT WE SERVE YOU AND YOU’LL LIKE IT.
  3. Let’s pretend #2 has occurred (I receive a condescending response). Here’s where in my opinion the game gets fun. I don’t tend to play my diabetic card unless someone is being an asshole (or it gets me a discount somewhere), and attempting to condescendingly serve me nail polish definitely suffices as asshole-like behavior. So, then I (just as condescendingly) tell them I’m a diabetic and I can’t drink sugar because that’s very bad for me (and if they at all seem interested, I’ll explain why). All of a sudden, I become a VIP! Ideas come pouring forth, whatever you’d like ma’am, how can we help? Commence excellent drink and excellent service! Except for that one time, when a restaurant in Denver tried to refuse to serve me an alcoholic beverage at all because they were afraid I’d become deathly ill or die and sue them (my explanation of blood sugar must have gone awry in that case)…but that’s not usually the norm.
  4. Now that I’m a VIP – enjoy my tasty beverage and newly excellent wait service!

Not so surprisingly, by the way, drinks that have a lower processed sugar content are still excellent (and might give you less of a hangover). And my wonderful friends who have suffered through my experiments/gleeful discoveries/trials and tribulations with restaurants and bars have realized the inherent value of drinking with a diabetic, and encouraged me to share my findings more broadly. Because, WHO KNEW?!! (They sure as hell don’t teach this stuff in “How to be a Type 1 Diabetic 101”)

And so, Drinking With Diabetics was born. Cheers and see you at the (Stevia) bar.