Two Low-Sugar Martinis to Get Tipsy (…I Mean, Busy) Over

Happy Labor Day, everyone! Long weekends are so great for like a million reasons, but one of my favorite things about the Labor Day long weekend is that we can all agree that its primary purpose is to celebrate the hard work of our ancestors by drinking. Cheers to that.

I used some of my long weekend to experiment with some, quote, “low carb” martini recipes I discovered. Martinis really have nothing to do with the month of September, but I was feeling the need to mix things up before I get overwhelmed by everything pumpkin spice and we have to head down that road (again – how is it fall AGAIN?).

I’ve encountered a lot of the usual suspects on the menu in my culinary travels lately; well-known drinks that remain strangers to me because they’re filled with a shitload of juice or only good because they’re a mix of some kind. I actually left a restaurant recently (bringing a large group with me) because I was informed, condescendingly and haughtily (and like five times, five different ways, because apparently being a diabetic means I’m also slow to process information/was born yesterday), that “they were a WINE BAR and the only liquor-based cocktails they offer contain a sugary mix and I should have come there for wine but because I want a cocktail and I’m a diabetic, I can basically SUCK IT”.  (For anyone looking to avoid this experience, never go to Bitto Bistro)

This made me more determined to find some really common household beverages and whip up a fantastic alternative. And so, I bring you a low-sugar Sex on the Beach martini (suck THIS, Bitto Bistro) and the Watermelon Basil Martini.

Both recipes I’d found for these drinks initially didn’t work for me at all (so I won’t credit their authors here); the measurements on the watermelon basil drink had way too much watermelon juice which put it way high on the glycemic scale (and totally spiked me for like 3 hours) and the “low carb” Sex on the Beach was just, well, gross. I did some tinkering with both to bring down the natural sugar content and try to at least go from gross to halfway decent.  I think they both ended up pretty quality, but you’ll have to let me know (and no judgment here on your timing for making Sex on the Beach…promise).

Oh, and a note about flavored vodkas.  My Sex on the Beach recipe requires the use of flavored vodkas, to maintain the fruity flavors of the drink without the added juice. I spent some time talking with the knowledgeable folks at the liquor store about which flavored vodkas were best to purchase from a lesser sugar perspective (but that weren’t crazy expensive), and they said go for the flavored vodkas that infuse flavors rather than use sugar to add flavors. The difference was, no big surprise, reflected in the price; by purchasing infused-flavor vodkas rather than the Smirnoff-type choices I probably added about $20 to my total price tag when checking out. But for staying low sugar I think it’s worth the extra money.

Low sugar Sex on the Beach martini

Low sugar Sex on the Beach martini

Low Sugar Sex on the Beach Martini

Ingredients (makes two martini glass-sized beverages):

  • 2 oz Vodka (best to keep it quality because there’s a lot going on in this drink – I used Tito’s)
  • 2 oz Peach vodka
  • 6 oz Diet cranberry juice
  • 1 tsp Orange Extract
  • Sprite Zero (or club soda, if you want a less sweet drink)
  • Ice

Recommended steps:

  1. Combine vodka, peach vodka, orange extract and cranberry juice in cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well.
  2. Pour equal amounts of liquid into martini glasses.
  3. Fill glasses the rest of the way with either Sprite Zero or club soda, depending on your sweetness preferences, and stir.
  4. Garnish with a slice of lime.

 

Low Sugar Watermelon Basil Martini

Low Sugar Watermelon Basil Martini

Low Sugar Watermelon Basil Martini

*A note about this one: watermelon is one of my absolute favorite fruits, but it makes my pancreas go nuts. I can manage it in small amounts, but it does make my BG go up and this drink required a couple of units of insulin. If you’re one of those people too, keep that in mind when consuming this drink.

Ingredients (makes makes two martini glass-sized beverages):

  • 2 oz watermelon juice from watermelon (I got half a watermelon, cut it into chunks and basically smashed them into a strainer to juice it – it makes a lot of juice so this is a good recipe for a larger group, or if you’re a lush)
  • 3.5 oz vodka (best to keep it quality – I used Tito’s)
  • 2 oz St Germain
  • 3-4 large basil leaves
  • Slice of lime
  • Club soda
  • Sprite Zero
  • Small chunk of watermelon and another basil leaf for garnish
  • Ice

Recommended steps:

  1. Smash watermelon chunks to obtain juice.
  2. Combine watermelon juice and basil leaves in cocktail shaker. Try to smash basil leaves to extract flavor without spilling watermelon juice all over counter/floor like I did.
  3. Add vodka, St Germain  and a few ice cubes to cocktail shaker and shake well.
  4. Pour mixture into martini glasses.
  5. Top off with club soda and Sprite Zero in equal amounts (I found the drink too sweet just adding Sprite Zero, but that’s personal preference most likely)
  6. Squeeze in a slice of lime, and stir.
  7. Garnish with a small chunk of watermelon and a basil leaf.

Keeping It Classy With the Sugar-free Iced Latte

It’s time to give coffee some more due diligence because I’m not certain I’d be alive (and possibly neither would some of my coworkers) without it. I love the taste, but there’s more to it than that – making a coffee drink has become an art and a comforting ritual for me.

In my first post about coffee, I mentioned that I was never a big fan of sugary, non-coffee-tasting coffee drinks (like those everyone likes to purchase at a place that starts with “S” and ends with “-ucks”), so I haven’t had to make any real sacrifices or dietary shifts with my diabetes diagnosis. But, every now and then I enjoy a nice caramel or vanilla latte and sometimes even rarely crave a big ass frappucino with whipped cream, so I can understand that the struggle is real.

And, as I mentioned previously, the struggle is not totally necessary because those drinks are all still within reach. In this post, I’m going to focus on how to make a flavored iced latte yourself, the correct way – then you can save your $6 and the half a vial of insulin you’d have used for a crappy, poorly made drink at Starbucks to pay for more insulin so you can eat cake (or something) instead. You’re welcome.

How to make a sugar-free flavored latte the correct way

Iced latte.

A homemade iced latte. Note the nice espresso crema on top.

An iced latte is comprised of espresso, milk, a flavor (if you want to flavor it), and ice. There are a few tricks to making a good latte:

  • Use good espresso. Don’t use the cheap crap they sell in Safeway; shell out some $$ for a higher quality brand (that you’ve tried first and know you like), make sure it’s ground finely so you get the most flavor out of the beans, and is reasonably fresh (hasn’t been sitting in your cupboard for 2 years). You will spend more on espresso up front getting a better bean, but you’ll save like $300 and your palate not going to Starbucks. Again, you’re welcome.
  • If you have the money, I’d recommend getting a decent espresso machine. You don’t need to spend $2000 so don’t go to Crate & Barrel and get talked into that ridiculousness. There are many good machines starting at around $75 to about $300  available just about anywhere that make a really nice pour (and you just saved $300 not going to Starbucks, so you can afford it).  There are also a lot of coffee/espresso machine combinations that also work just fine. I currently have a $300 DeLonghi that I’m really happy with. But, honestly, you can also make espresso without a machine at all, and it’s really up to you how you get something you’re happy with.
  • There is a proper order to adding the ingredients so you don’t end up with a watery, tasteless mess.  If you’ve ever seen a “barista” (quotation marks intentional) at Starbucks just throwing everything into a cup all at once, they’re doing it wrong, and you’re going to get a crappy, watered down drink. More on the order in a moment.
  • Use a good flavoring option for your drink. I’ve previously extolled the virtues of sugar-free Torani syrups in several posts already; they’re my preferred go to brand for all coffee drinks. They have literally about every flavor you could possibly want, so you can also mix and match and experiment with which flavors you prefer together. I’ve found that the amount of flavoring I put in to a drink depends on the flavor; some flavors are more subtle than others so you need a little more. It’s best to experiment to see what fits your preferences.
  • Oh, and milk type is kind of a personal preference. I really only ever drink milk (skim) when I’m drinking a latte, so I can’t speak to how different types of milk might affect blood sugar. I would note that a higher fat milk makes a smoother drink overall because it holds flavor better than skim, but I can’t stand drinking high fat milk so it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. Obviously, any amount of milk contains carbs so there might be a small amount of insulin required to treat but in my case, the BG raise has been negligible for me.

My recommended order of ingredients to get the best-tasting, smoothest drink:

  1. Make your espresso pour. Most standard espresso machines will make two shots at a time, and most espresso drinks are made with two shots. I like my drinks strong and I’ve been drinking coffee a long time, so I use four for my drinks.
  2. Measure out your sugar-free flavor and pour into steaming hot espresso. Mix well to evenly distribute flavor. I’ve found, depending on the flavor, that 1/2 to 3/4 oz. sugar-free Torani syrup is a perfect amount for a standard drink-size latte. My favorite flavors are vanilla and salted caramel (sometimes together).
  3. Set espresso and flavoring mixture aside.
  4. Fill a standard cup, glass or travel beverage container completely with ice. The larger the ice cubes, the better. Using enough ice (and large cubes, if possible) is important because if you don’t use enough, when you mix in the hot espresso your ice will melt and you’ll end up with diluted espresso and a lukewarm drink. More ice = more cold surface area to cool the espresso more quickly, so the ice doesn’t all melt at once, and then it will stick around to keep your drink cold while you consume it.
  5. Pour milk into your ice-filled glass until it’s about 1/2 full. Pouring the milk in first is another way to keep things colder overall and prevent melting and dilution of your flavors.
  6. Pour espresso & flavoring mixture into the glass.
  7. Add ice if more is needed and mix well. Enjoy your high quality sugar-free latte and flip Starbucks the bird.
  8. Optional: You may find your drink isn’t quite sweet enough to your liking once you try it. You can either add more flavoring until the sweetness is to your satisfaction, or you can add a little bit of liquid Stevia, which I’ve found both sweetens the drink and brings out the flavoring a little more.

 

Summertime Sangria (and Some Info About Wine)

I was pondering what my next post was going to cover and realized I’ve got some bias going on, in favor of liquor-based beverages. I’m not really sorry about that and it will probably continue because I like fun cocktails (and, uh, there’s only so much you can do about the contents in wine and beer) — but I’m acknowledging my bias and so here’s a post about wine.

Oh, and I actively dislike beer and all of it has a shitload of carbs (even the light stuff… and really — “light” beer? Come on), so it’s really unlikely you’re ever going to see a post about beer.  You beer drinkers are on your own for now, unless someone would like to write a guest post. Sorry not sorry.

I made a friend recently who is a sommelier and I’ve been holding out writing about wine hoping he’d guest post about diabetes and wine, but we’ve been literally unable to physically connect to discuss, so you’re stuck with me for now (he sounds interesting so keep your fingers crossed for me). The good news is, as far as I can tell it’s pretty basic — it comes down to how much residual sugar (the fruit sugars in wine grapes) is involved in making any particular type of wine. This article and the images below from our friends at Wine Folly break it down in more detail, but the gist: the drier and less sweet the wine, the less residual sugar it is likely to have – and thus, the less it will jack up blood sugars when consumed.  They note that unless you have a tech sheet handy (I don’t even know what the hell that is), it will be hard to determine how much residual sugar is in a given wine, so follow these two tips:

  1. Watch the cheap wines because they likely have more residual sugars and possibly some additional sugars added to improve the taste (OH, so THIS is why the headaches – aha!). Bottles of wine typically ranging from $15+ are considered better in the long run.
  2. Drink in moderation. Wait, seriously? Screw this article.

    Sugar in wine - by Wine Folly

    Calories & Carbs in wine - by Wine Folly

So let’s apply our newfound knowledge about wine to a Sangria recipe. Sangria is a lovely summery/refreshing beverage that I don’t make often because it’s a pain in the ass to cut all the fruit and requires more than four ingredients, but I’m always happy when I make it, and it’s still summer, DAMMIT.

As an aside, I tend to avoid ordering these when out because restaurants pre-make big batches and the folks selling them don’t always know what’s in them, and between the type of wine used as the base, plus any added liquor, plus all the fruit – you could end up drinking the equivalent of three cokes and not realize it.

Sangria is a subtly strong drink because it contains both wine AND liquor (Cointreau or a similar orange liqueur is recommended), so there are several ways to proceed depending on how drunk you’d like to be after consuming your first glass. It’s also a bit of a “choose your own adventure” regarding how much sugar you add to the recipe and, consequently, whether insulin may need to be involved. Given that there’s liqueur involved as well as fruit, the sugar content can easily add up, so for this recipe it’s important to take both into account when sugar/carb counting. I used my own special pancreas as a guinea pig for the recipe below, and I’d say after about 1.5 hours of sipping approximately 1.5 glasses of my concoction (and sneaking a handful of fruit while I was making it) I’ve gone from about 110 to 135 mg/dL, so all in all not too bad.

D4D Peach Berry White Sangria

D4D Peach Berry White Sangria

I think I found a decent balance for the best of all worlds. I used a dry white wine to make a white Sangria (sorry you red wine drinkers… that shit gives me headaches) so I’m starting with less sugar in my base.  I used peaches and nectarines and other berries because I like them and they’re a little lower on the glycemic index than some other fruit options. I also tested out adding some seltzer water and about 1/2 tsp of liquid stevia to cut the strength of the wine and add a little sweetness. I must say, the overall result wasn’t half bad.

Peach Berry White Sangria (serves 2-3 and/or makes a full pitcher)

Ingredients:

  • 1.5-2 bottles dry white wine (Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc are best)
  • 2/3 cup Cointreau (or Grand Marnier, or any other orange-flavored liqueur)
  • 2 peaches, diced, skin on (you can peel them but I don’t mind the skins)
  • 1 nectarine, skin on (you can peel them but I don’t mind the skins)
  • 4-5 strawberries, diced
  • 1/2 cup blueberries, a little squashed to let out flavor
  • Few mint leaves for garnish/flavor
  • 3 cups seltzer water (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp liquid stevia (optional)

Recommended steps:

  1. Cut all the fruit and throw into a fancy pitcher
  2. Pour wine and Cointreau into pitcher and stir; in a perfect world, let sit in refrigerator for approx. 3 hours before consuming
  3. Add seltzer and stevia (optional)
  4. Pour into glass, add ice if desired

The whole concoction can be stored about two days in the refrigerator.

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Gin gimlet

Drink Review: Diabetics Doing Denver

What do you immediately think of when I say summer and alcohol? Yup, that’s right: patios and refreshing beverages. (if you thought of something else, I don’t want to know what it is)

In between recent extracurricular adventures, I’ve been upping my hipster quotient in Denver’s RiNo neighborhood, checking out the patios of some of the chic new restaurants that seem to be popping up everywhere in an area that was until very recently a sad row of abandoned warehouses. These are the kind of restaurants that attract snobby assholes who eat inside buildings wearing their sunglasses, are rude to the waiters because they believe it’s their birthright and assume we’re all here to wait on them hand and foot — but, for better or worse, there’s a reason they’re there: the food is damn good. These restaurants view food as an art, and I’ve been gratified to discover this extends to their mixology, as well.

At two such places, I wasn’t able to find cocktails on the menu that I was interested in/that seemed safe to consume, so I decided to risk it: I told the bartenders I was a diabetic and challenged them to make me a refreshing low sugar cocktail.  It’s been a lucky couple of weeks for me, and my luck extended here, as well — both restaurants delivered excellent beverages. In both cases, when I asked them to leave out the simple syrup and mentioned that I used Stevia to sweeten my drinks instead, the bartenders offered to mix in my Stevia packets without a second thought.  One of them actually spent about 10 minutes talking to me about his experience working with Stevia, said that he thought it was the best option for alternatives for alcoholic beverages, and suggested I grow my own plant.

(As an aside, it has literally never occurred to me to grow my own plant – I frankly hadn’t put much thought into where Stevia came from, much less that I could create my own sweetener. Who the fuck knew? I might look into this, so stay tuned for an update in a future post.)

Until recently, I’d have felt like a high maintenance asshole asking a bartender to use my artificial sweetener in their fancy, carefully created artistic drink – but I’ve decided the risk of social shaming is worth the positive outcome.

So, new D4D tip — if you have the balls and the social skills, ask your resident bartender to cut the simple syrup and mention you have Stevia they could use, instead… and suggest they mix it in for you.

Drink 1: Blueberry Saketini, Mr. Tuna

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Blueberry Saketini, Mr. Tuna

This was a twist on a drink listed on their menu. When I asked the bartender what she recommended I try, she suggested a twist to one of the drinks on the menu because of its simplicity and used Stevia to replace the simple syrup.

Key ingredients:

  • Blueberry sake
  • Crushed mint
  • Bitters
  • Simple Syrup/Stevia

Score on the D4D scale of 1 to 5: 4.

Drink 2: Gin Gimlet, Acorn

Gin gimlet

Gin Gimlet, Acorn

Acorn didn’t have any drinks listed on their menu I was interested in (or that looked manageable) so I asked the bartender to make me something using cucumber and basil. He suggested a gin gimlet because of the relatively few ingredients, and then used my Stevia in place of simple syrup.

Key ingredients:

  • Gin
  • Lime juice
  • Crushed cucumber and basil
  • Soda water
  • Simple syrup/Stevia

Score on the D4D scale of 1 to 5: 4.2.

 

Liquid Gold

Raise your hand if you’re reading this WT (while tired).

It’s somewhere in the middle of a week after a long weekend literally designed for grilling, drinking beer (more on that later), relaxing with family and friends, and celebration. Maybe you ate too much, or drank too much, especially last night at 10pm when you were in denial you had to go back to work today (I mean, I didn’t… I’m just asking for a friend).

Whatever your reason, you’re dragging, and I have a solution.

No, it’s not quitting your job (sorry). Here it is:

Drink coffee - do stupid things faster with more energy.

Drink coffee – do stupid things faster with more energy. (this photo belongs to Amazon)

My solution to nearly all the ills in life is coffee. It tastes amazing, it can warm you up or cool you down, and as an added bonus, it can help you do stupid things with more energy. The first question I asked my doctor when I was diagnosed was “can I still drink coffee?” That is how much this liquid gold matters to me.

This blog promised to cover all of the liquid perks life has to offer, and I particularly look forward to exploring the world of coffee. I’ve heard anecdotally and read in a few articles that coffee (or, rather, the caffeine in coffee) will raise blood sugar in some Type 1s marginally but not on a massive scale. I haven’t found that to be the case myself, but I have a rather stubborn dawn phenomenon that occurs with or without coffee, so it’s hard for me to separate the two in a quantifiable way.  Further, I’d rather take insulin than be cranky (you’re welcome).

I suspect my present day fascination with mixing drinks can actually be tracked back to my days as a barista, when I officially became addicted to caffeine and was introduced to the notion that drink making could be an art. This was back in about 2000, when Starbucks only had 3,000 stores and only half the country thought it was cool to drink pure sugar that tasted remotely like coffee. Today, every Pinterest model can be seen sporting two critically important accessories: a cell phone and a plastic Starbucks cup with the latest flavored frappucino or flavored latte. For better or worse, this has created an expectation, at least in the U.S., that coffee must taste like smoked marshmallow instead of coffee. I’m not actually sure half of the coffee drinkers in this country know what real coffee tastes like, which seems to be sad only to me and people who actually know how to make coffee.

Those of you who know me well know I fucking hate Starbucks and I always have for a lot of reasons, but let’s all be honest with ourselves: those frappucinos don’t suck, and that’s because they have a shitload of sugar in them. I had a frappucino once post-dead-pancreas, because I didn’t even think about how much sugar was in there and it was hot and I wanted whipped cream. An hour later, my blood sugar was almost 400 and no amount of insulin would bring it down. Whoops. On the plus side, I rarely drink that crap anyway because I believe in quality coffee roasted by people who know what the fuck they’re doing (Starbucks has neither), so giving up fake-coffee-sugar-drinks wasn’t a huge sacrifice. But I know I’m in the minority (haughty sniff).

The good news is, there’s a TON of alternatives for great (and sweet) coffee drinks for those of us who can no longer survive a frappucino without a trip to the hospital. But this *might* mean you will have to learn to make your own coffee drinks in some cases, so hang in there with me. I promise, real coffee drinks can be as good as a frappucino.

A couple of thoughts about things you can change right away to ante up your coffee quality of life:

The world of sugar-free flavored syrups is worth exploring. I mentioned in a previous blog post the many, many virtues of sugar-free Torani syrups, which can create a beautiful, smoked marshmallow world for those of you who prefer it that way.  While there are lots of syrup brands out there, Torani is used most consistently in the coffee world — it’s good stuff. A bigger coffee shop will carry at least one or two sugar-free flavors, so it’s always good to ask what they have before assuming you’re stuck with something boring (I do happen to know that every Starbucks carries sugar-free Vanilla, at a minimum). If you want to buy your own to make your own coffee drinks, just about any flavor you can imagine is available on the Torani site or on Amazon. If you’re in a hurry, you can pick them up at World Market, which carries several flavors.

You do not have to suffer because of someone’s hipster liquid agave. I’ve noticed a recent trend: today’s local coffee shops (which you should be going to instead of Starbucks because their coffee is actual coffee) have gone very modern and minimalist in order to enhance the customer experience, and in some cases, this means they no longer offer artificial sweeteners because it will RUIN their minimalist look and kill your $6 pour-over (haughty sniff). Instead, you will find a very chic looking single bottle of liquid agave on the condiments counter, because liquid sugar is the new thing. How classy. So, for a diabetic, you might believe your choice is to drink fancy but bitter unsweetened coffee, or risk a blood sugar spike… not true! Fuck that hipster shit.

Now, you know that you should carry a few packets of artificial sweeteners with you everywhere you go because you read my post on tips and tricks, and you can use those anytime when you order your coffee and discover you’ve chosen to patronize somewhere too cool for you. I’ve also learned that sometimes coffee shops do carry artificial sweeteners but they hide them, so you should always ask. And, this is a very recent discovery – some coffee shops are learning they have been assholes and are starting to carry sugar free liquid sweeteners, too!

Kudos to Ziggy's Coffee in Longmont, CO, for carrying sugar-free liquid sweetener.

Kudos to Ziggi’s Coffee in Longmont, CO, for carrying sugar-free liquid sweetener.

I was actually not aware Torani even made liquid sweetener prior to taking this photo, but I am now. Kudos to the Colorado-based Ziggi’s Coffee for carrying this alternative.

In the next few posts about coffee, I’ll explore some recipes for summertime drinks that are low sugar and just as damn tasty as a frappucino.  In the meantime, you’ll likely find me sucking down my bucket of sugar-free liquid gold at work tomorrow. Zzzzzz….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I Got Fancy With a Mint Julep

DERBY WEEKEND… SQUEEEEE. Ya’ll know what that means… FLAIR! Parties, fancy summer dresses, ridiculous HATS, spectacular / bourbon-flavored / fried / #superfatteningfoodthatgoesstraighttomyass / uh, great food… and Mint Juleps!

It’s a great excuse to fancy it up on all fronts, including at one’s personal diabetic bar. So D4D got fancy this weekend in honor of the Kentucky Derby, and in honor of Justify, who looked like he was on steroids and in honor of Mr. Dollar-sign Bob Baffert winning with another horse AGAIN (dude seriously… haven’t you won enough? there are some starving type 1 diabetics out there who could use some free CGMs or something at least, you know?).

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The fancy Mint Julep (sparkly straw recommended for flair)

THE D4D SUGAR FREE MINT JULEP WITH FLAIR

Ingredients:

  • Bourbon (get the good shit – this drink is centered around bourbon so don’t fuck it up with a cheap replacement)
  • Stevia mint simple syrup
  • Crushed ice (again, the ice made the drink so definitely try to stick to crushed ice for this recipe… and this time I went to Sonic and got a bag for $2 – less pretentious than Whole Foods and plenty of ice for everyone)
  • Fresh mint
  • Optional:
    • Seltzer water (recommended for those who aren’t a fan of straight up bourbon)
    • Limes
    • Other types of fruit to muddle in that pair well with bourbon, such as blackberries and pomegranate

Recommended steps:

  1. Prepare your Stevia mint simple syrup about 1 day in advance of drink mixing (not required but recommended for better taste and so it’s cold). To make enough to serve about 12-15 drinks, I recommend the following steps:
    1. Pour 1/4 to 1/3 cup of Stevia crystals (use between 1/4 cup and 1/3 cup depending on level of sweetness you’re aiming for) into 2 cups of boiling water and stir until dissolved.
    2. Add a nice full cup of fresh mint leaves to boiling mixture and allow to continue boiling for approximately 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
    3. Pour mixture into container to cool using a sieve to strain out mint leaves, but before discarding press mint leaves down into the sieve to get all the last flavor/juice out.
    4. This stuff will keep for a while (~2 weeks) if you store in an air tight container in the refrigerator.
  2. Fill a medium-sized fancy glass with crushed ice
  3. Add 2 oz bourbon
  4. Add 1.5 oz Stevia mint simple syrup
  5. Add about 1/4 cup of seltzer water if you don’t want a straight shot of sweet bourbon
  6. Garnish with a fresh mint sprig
  7. Optional: muddle in some fresh blackberries or pomegranate seeds, and/or add a couple of lime slices for added flavor
  8. Optional: add flair with sparkly straws or other over-the-top decorations
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A D4D Mint Julep with blackberry ready for the race

 

 

 

 

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.