Archetype's "New Fangled," served with smoked vodka, tea syrup, bitters and a jerky topping.

Review: Diabetics Doing Distilleries Around Denver

That title is pretty fucking witty, isn’t it? I’ve been just waiting for the opportune moment to let it fly.

And really, I could have held on to it for a lot longer because it seems like every week there’s a new distillery opening around here, but that just means I get to do a second (actually at this point, maybe even third) installment. Life is rough.

But, let’s talk about breweries for a second (I promise, it’s relevant). Have you noticed they’re sorta all the same — they’re filled with lots of bros with handlebar moustaches and/or well-groomed beards, who just left their job working for fill-in-the-blank tech company (or maybe they’ve been “working remotely” there all day). Some are clean, some are not, but in general they all offer a seat at a picnic table, a game of cornhole, and some loud company from whoever had one too many. There’s no food (or there’s some fried shit, maybe), and of course you can also order pizza or tacos from whatever food truck is perma-parked out front.

My apologies if you are super into breweries and are not a bro. I am 100% generalizing as well as stereotyping, and I will totally own that.  But, I hope we can at least agree that what breweries all truly have in common (and this is not generalizing) is the massive carb count. Despite the fact that I live in a professed brewery capitol state, it’s not my scene, and IMO is in no way #bolusworthy (I wish I could say I coined this hashtag, but it was donated for use by another T1D).

This makes the recent proliferation of distilleries excellent news for me. Cocktail snobs, unite!

There are several reasons I’ve really enjoyed my recent distillery visits:

  1. It seems that many places have really carefully put time and energy into curating a particular look and feel for their space, which has created a more holistic experience than just having a drink (like a local coffee shop with an edge – hah);
  2. I’ve found both the distillers (when I met them) and the bartenders to in general be super knowledgeable about their spirits and the flavors in their drinks and I’ve learned a considerable amount from chatting with them;
  3. On several occasions when I mentioned I was a member of the dead pancreas club, they proactively engaged in conversation with me, asking questions, making suggestions for good drink options, and in a couple of cases coming back with ideas for how to develop a particular flavor profile to replace a sugary ingredient. Like a good barista, many bartenders consider themselves artists – in weaving flavors together to create a new color of drink. This is all great news for us, because it pretty much opens up a world of possibility for what can be created. I’ve already gathered several new ideas from my visits and can’t wait to share them.

So without further ado and in no particular order, here is my review of four distilleries in or around the Denver area, with a couple of special shout-outs for some that showed up in extraordinary ways.

Mythology Distillery (LoHi, Denver)

Cocktail purchased: Your Grandfather’s Old Fashioned (whiskey)
Thoughts: Mythology was super busy when we arrived there, late afternoon, so I did not have an opportunity to engage with anyone working. I will say that when I tried to ask the bartender to come up with something lower sugar than the menu options they had available (because there wasn’t much available that was lower sugar), she was not enthused by my request and that’s how I ended up with an old fashioned. Le sigh. We did get a surprise visit by the owner toward the end (I think he was just making the rounds; they had opened very recently) but it was kind of too late by that point.
Overall: The space was beautiful, but I was disappointed by the service and my drink. Meh out of 5.

Archetype Distillery (South Broadway, Denver)

Archetype's "New Fangled," served with smoked vodka, tea syrup, bitters and a jerky topping.

Archetype’s “New Fangled,” served with smoked vodka, tea syrup, bitters and a jerky topping.

Cocktail purchased: New Fangled (smoked vodka)
Thoughts: Archetype is beautiful. It’s got a marbled counter that is lit from underneath, and everything was very swanky/clean/modern. We happened to be the only people there for almost our entire visit, and the bartender was super friendly and knowledgeable. I of course had to know how the hell you “smoke” vodka, so she described some of the process for infusing the flavor. My friend’s drink was served literally smoking via a little bit of dry ice (I tried to get a picture but missed my opportunity). Most of their drinks are served with special touches (my drink came with a piece of artistic-looking turkey jerky, for example).
Overall: Great location (perfect addition to the hipster south Broadway neighborhood), great service, good knowledge. Would have stayed longer but both of us were starving. 5 out of 5.

The Block Distillery (RiNo, Denver)

Cocktail purchased: Some kind of strawberry old fashioned (because we couldn’t drink anything off their menu and the bartender wasn’t feeling especially creative) (whiskey)
Thoughts: I suspect The Block didn’t show up the way they could have the day we were there. We happened to get a meh bartender who wasn’t really feeling up to the challenge of making something lower sugar, and shortly after we arrived it got SUPER crowded (and a tad frat-tastic, I might add). The acoustics were bad, so we shouted at each other a majority of the time and decided our best option was to leave.
Overall: It wasn’t bad, but nothing really remarkable. 3 out of 5.

Ironton Distillery (RiNo, Denver)

Some of the wall art at Ironton. I mean, who couldn't relate to a distillery with THIS on their wall??

Some of the wall art at Ironton. I mean, who couldn’t relate to a distillery with THIS on their wall??

Cocktail purchased: Minty Julep (bourbon)
Thoughts: I frankly could have stayed at Ironton all night. It was comfortable, well laid out, and the bartenders were friendly and knowledgeable, and had some great suggestions for low-sugar alternative ingredients. The designer had taken all my favorite things about Colorado (mountain theme, different woods and metals, industrial rustic, etc.) and woven furnishings and decorations throughout the space. There is an art gallery with rotating themes that is attached; you can purchase your drink and walk through at your leisure. They have a beautiful patio with a mountain view, which we were not able to enjoy due to the rain (wtf?) the night we visited. Our drinks were excellent. And they have several really interesting liqueurs to try; I tried the Cacao flavor, which was very chocolatey in a legit, not overwhelming or too-sweet way. I’ll likely go back and purchase some at some point and am already pondering what kind of fun drinks I can make with cacao (because hello, chocolate).
Overall: Easily one of my favorite places in Denver. I’ll become a regular. 6 out of 5.

Stay tuned for installment 2!

A smattering of what's currently in my fridge...

A short story of tragic proportions and some diabetic drink base hacks for the non-creatives

Last night, I met a friend for dinner and drinks at a new restaurant in Arvada (a small town/suburb just west of Denver, for you non-Coloradans). The restaurant was famed for its extraordinarily long list of whiskies available for tasting and mixing (like, over a hundred), knowledgeable bartenders and hipster vibe. I was excited to put this possible new favorite spot to the D-test.

Upon arrival, I discovered the mixed drink options were all high sugar, and the only possible swaps that could happen (that wouldn’t nix the entire drink) were in the “old-fashioned” type of drinks…basically the ones that were straight up alcohol with just a hint of flavor from a second liqueur. Sigh. This meant I was going to have to rely on the restaurant to make me something that wasn’t on the menu. But, I remained hopeful because again, this place HAD to have some experienced bartenders who could toss a tasty, low-sugar something together.  Anyone who works somewhere with over 100 whiskies had to know SOMETHING about mixing, right? When I discussed this with our waitress, she pointed out that this was possible AND that one of the bartenders was a Type 1! Score! Off she went to ask him to put something together for me. I KNEW this was going to be my new favorite place.

10 minutes later, she returned with a dirty martini with a lemon rind in it. My heart sank. I don’t like dirty martinis (because I frankly am just not into drinking straight vodka – soooo gross and depressing), and in my opinion, they’re the cop-out of drinking diabetics everywhere (this blog was more or less founded on my frequent run-ins with diabetics drinking vodka soda water). I took a sip, just to make sure I wasn’t missing something, and nope, I was not. There was no way I was drinking that. I called the waitress over and mentioned that straight up olive-tasting vodka just wasn’t my jam, and was it possible to push said Type 1 bartender to be just a tad more creative? “No,” she said, “he told me he doesn’t really take care of himself and just drinks a lot of beer; he doesn’t know how to make low-sugar drinks.”

Wow. D minus for the new restaurant (it’s not an F because our waitress was awesome and the food was good). I gave up and ordered an old-fashioned.

The point here is…

I get it, we’re all fucking busy and some people like beer. We do live in Colorado, the micro-brewery capitol of the universe, and I don’t expect everyone to maintain the exhausting level of alcoholic snobbery I do. My point is that you don’t have to, nor do you even really have to be a fancy bartender or spend any amount of time throwing something together. It wouldn’t have taken much for this beer-carb-laden Type 1 bartender to make me happy last night.

So, in no particular order, some ideas he might want to consider (for himself and his restaurant) in the future:

Use flavored seltzer water.

A smattering of what's currently in my fridge...

A smattering of what’s currently in my fridge…

Not feeling creative/don’t have time to make a fancy drink? No problem… you only have to choose from five hundred BILLION kinds of flavored zero-sugar seltzer water, sweeten it up a tad with some liquid stevia to enhance whatever the flavor is, and drop in your liquor of choice. I swear, every time I go to the grocery store there are more options. You can’t go wrong.

My current favorite is the Seven brand, which recently produced a series of unsweetened “beverage” flavors. I’m most partial to the “Lime Mint Mojito,” which really does, in my opinion, effectively capture that mojito flavor. I add 1/2 oz of St. Germain, 1.5 oz of light rum, and squeeze in a lime – and voila – an almost completely sugar-free (St. Germain aside) pear mojito for you right there.

Flavored sodas can be magic.

I had to try it. Still tastes like Diet Coke so you can't really escape that.

I had to try it. Still tastes like Diet Coke so you can’t really escape that…

I know, I know… soda is bad for you. And I personally think Diet Coke tastes like crap, but I know there are people out there who like it. And, if you really MUST have a legit diet soda, both Coke and Pepsi recently started to make flavored diet options, some of which lend themselves quite nicely to alcoholic beverages.

If you’re jonesing for a Coke but have sworn off of actual soda because you’re, like, healthy and shit,  Zevia makes some great soda flavors that are pretty legit (and some even have caffeine in them).

And if you’re into mules or gin & tonics, for example, don’t tell yourself you’re stuck with a high-sugar beverage because EVERYTHING has a diet equivalent, and most can be found right next door to the original in any major grocery store. I use diet ginger beer all the time for my mules, and keep diet tonic water around in case I suddenly have a hankering for a scholarly beverage.

Low carb hard selzer, like White Claw and Truly, is a gift from the universe.

I could kiss whoever came up with this concept (and so could every sorority girl in the world, no doubt). This isn’t zero sugar or zero carb because it has alcohol in it (in case that wasn’t immediately obvious), but it’s damn close.

What the fuck else can I say about this? Buy yourself a six pack and hit the beach. End of story.

You can literally buy a whole fucking low-carb cocktail pre-mixed in a bottle.

One example is the Skinny Girl series; I can’t totally speak to these because I haven’t really tried them, but I have friends who like them. All you have to do is pour that shit into a glass. I promise, you can do it.

Try using a protein drink.

IMG_0023

Like to multitask? Then this one’s for you.

Okay, it’s little bit of a stretch but roll with it. I was in Costco the other day perusing the protein aisle for deals (I mean, who doesn’t need 500 pounds of whey protein, right?), and stumbled across an Isopure bottled protein drink I hadn’t seen before. It was on sale; a case of 12 bottles for $16, so I thought eh, what the hell, I’ll give it a try – and bought the case. I like to use Isopure protein powder (the whey isolate) for my protein shakes because it’s very low carb and doesn’t have a bunch of other crap in it. Having it in a premade drink form was a nice bonus.

I was driving home eyeballing these almost glowing green bottles of what looked essentially like coolant, wondering how horrible they were going to be, when I had a brilliant thought: what if they made a good drink? I could boost my protein intake while also having a delightful apple melon and rum mixed beverage. My immediate second thought after that: what special kind of crazy does someone have to be to even be having this thought process?

The answer: low-carb fitness nuts who like to drink, obviously. I can’t possibly be the only crazy person out there… Anyone? Anyone?

In case you’re wondering – I did pair it with alcohol, and it was actually quite good. I used 1.5 oz of vodka, and mixed in a cucumber melon sugar-free seltzer (see? those seltzers are good with anything) to cut some of the sweetness, and I really can’t complain. I’ll probably do it again.

You saw it here first!

 

 

The Art of Drinking Internationally

Happy new year! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season filled with tasty food and beverages.

My Xmas was delightful; I spent six days enjoying sugar-free mojitoes on a lounge chair next to the ocean/pool in Mexico. It really doesn’t get better than that, you know?

But, preparing for the trip reminded me that enjoying (in a relaxing way, not in a oh-shit-my-BG-is-suddenly-400-whoopsies kind of way) the international food and drink situation as a diabetic requires a little bit of forethought and planning. While it’s easy to find good alternatives to food and drink things here in the States, one can’t take them for granted or assume they’re available outside of the country. So I thought I’d devote a post on this (focused on both food and drink) to share some tips I aggregated via my own successes and lessons learned on this last outing.

The extras I brought with me: some of my go-to snacks, protein bars in case I needed to replace a meal, sweetener alternatives and my favorite low supplies.

The extras I brought with me: some of my go-to snacks, protein bars in case I needed to replace a meal, sweetener alternatives and my favorite low supplies.


Bring basic snacks and supplies with you

I didn’t go to a third world country, but I happen to know that Mexicans aren’t the healthiest eaters. I was also planning on leaving the resort I stayed at for a couple of activities, and wanted to be prepared with my own snacks in case what they brought for our snack was cookies (turns out it was). And, I didn’t know what kind of sugar alternatives the resort would have available for my drinks, and obviously, my drinks were the most important part of the trip! So, I recommend bringing:

  1. Sugar alternatives. I’ve already talked quite a bit about my love for Stevia. I packed up a bottle of liquid Stevia and several Stevia packets and just brought them with me. When I went to the beach/pool during the day, I put them in my beach bag, and when I went for meals at night or found a nice place in the evening for a drink, I carried them in a small shoulder bag. Turns out Mexico has discovered Stevia too (and theirs was actually better!) and I needn’t have worried, but I’d have been up shit’s creek if my only option was Splenda or something (because ew).
  2. Protein bars. I brought a couple of these along in case I missed a meal for some reason or needed something quickly; I prefer the ONE brand because they’re very low sugar and don’t taste like cardboard, and I have a perfect ratio of insulin-to-protein bar that I know works to cover them. I did end up eating both of them, one on the plane and the second on my snorkel outing off the resort.
  3. Go-to snacks of choice. When I need a snack or get hand-to-mouth syndrome, my go-tos are usually jerky and nuts; they’re not heavy carb and give me a good dose of healthy protein and fat. Turns out the snack options at the pool weren’t great so I ended up going through what I’d brought and was glad I had it. In addition, the snacks on my off-resort snorkel tour were cookies and bananas; about as high on the Glycemic index as you could get. Luckily, I had brought my own stuff and was perfectly happy (and with a normal BG) most of the day.
  4. Low supplies of choice. I mean, duh – but in case for some reason this is news to someone, it’s always good to have these along wherever you go (I carried them with me day and eve). Also good to make sure you choose options that won’t melt if they get warm sitting out all day. I had a pretty good low one night and ended up drinking a Mexican coke out of the mini bar instead of getting into my low supplies (and Mexican cokes are HARD CORE sugar bombs), but felt better knowing I had stuff with me.
A fresh sugar-free mojito ready to go in front of the firepit one evening.

A fresh sugar-free mojito ready to go in front of the firepit one evening.


Drink responsibly

History has recently proven that Mexico is probably not the place to bring out your inner 21-year-old, drink too much and do stupid shit. You’ve likely heard all of the horror stories about bad things happening to Americans in Cancun, for example, most relating to some type of alcoholic beverage (roofies, poisoned tequila, etc.). So while I feel confident I can travel safely in Mexico as long as I’m careful and aware, I stayed very wary of what I was consuming. Further, Mexicans like their drinks with a LOT of sugar, pretty much no matter what it is, so I knew I’d have to figure out a foolproof method for getting drinks that were okay for me to consume.

Here’s what worked for me:

  1. Learn how to clearly ask for what you want in the local dialect. Don’t assume that everyone speaks clear English anywhere just because you’re there (we as Americans tend to do this). Obviously at resorts that are filled with something like 80% American tourists, a majority of the staff there will speak decent English, but that is not always a given. Plus, I like practicing my Spanish when in Mexico, because when in Rome, you know? So, before I went on my trip I taught myself how to ask for a sugar-free mojito (Quiero un mojito sin azucar/I’d like a mojito without sugar), and identified a backup drink in case I ran into problems (diet coke with rum). Not gonna lie – I got huffed at a LOT by making this special request because apparently it is sacreligious to drink a sugar-free mojito and the staff were appalled at my poor taste – but I got what I asked for.
  2. Ask for a better liquor than what they automatically give you. I stayed at an all-inclusive resort and obviously they go through a LOT of alcohol so it’s in their best interest to save money by giving people the cheaper/well brands of liquor. The cheaper stuff is higher in sugar content and can consequently give you a spectacular hangover when consumed in large quantities. Pretty much anywhere will have better quality liquor available for no more cost and will be happy to give it to you if you ask. By doing a little research when you arrive to identify the better quality brands available and specifically asking for them when you order a drink, you can better manage your BG and avoid a massive headache. And then you can wake up the next day and start your adventure all over again!
  3. Bring sugar alternatives with you in case they aren’t otherwise available. As discussed above.
  4. Taste your drink first before adding sugar alternatives and consuming. Duh, right? Yeah. I was having consistent success asking for my mojitoes without sugar, so I didn’t think to much when one drink was a little too sweet – I just assumed I’d added too much Stevia. On my fifth day at the resort, after four hours in the afternoon with a BG of 260 stubbornly refusing to come down no matter how much insulin I took, I realized I’d consumed a sugared beverage. My request had not made it to the bartenders appropriately, I guess. And then, because I can’t learn my lesson the first time, I did the same thing again that evening. While I normally would taste my drink first anyway, I had gotten complacent. Always taste your drink first – even if it’s the 20th one!
  5. Avoid the beachy, sugary stuff. Being a diabetic can really be a bitch sometimes. One day I REALLY wanted the strawberry daiquiri my neighbor was consuming and spent some minutes pondering how I might be able to make that happen without going into DKA. Unfortunately, there’s just not really an option; while I can sit at home with my diabetic bar and make myself martinis with all of the lovely alternatives I’ve identified, finding those (and getting someone to make a drink with them) in a foreign country is unlikely at best. On the plus side, you will likely be the only one feeling wide awake and peachy the following morning because you didn’t consume alcohol with a pound of sugar. Silver lining.

 

OMFGGGG Fall, Part 2 (We are the cider we’ve been waiting for)

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, so I wanted to make sure all y’all had these recipes in hand just in time for the holiday. (Hey! I got you. No one should be drinking vodka soda water on Thanksgiving, for fuck’s sake)

But before we talk Thanksgiving, I must first note that it’s National Diabetes Awareness Month (#NDAM), which as you can imagine, is a big fucking deal to all of us diabetics because it’s an opportunity to raise awareness (and funds) about the disease and educate folks. This blog is light and irreverent, but the truth is, Type 1 Diabetes is no joke and every day, people around the globe work their tails off to raise research dollars and to do the research itself – to help us find new, cutting edge ways to manage the disease and god willing, eventually find a cure. If you’re reading this blog because I told you to and you felt obligated, or because you’re amused by my rude tone, or even if you have no idea how you got here, please also take some time to read up on Type 1 Diabetes and how you can help.

Here are some great places to start:

Okay, now that I’ve covered the serious stuff – time to talk about APPLE CIDER. In my prior fall-themed post, I covered an Old Fashioned-style beverage and a martini, because I was still waiting for my sugar-free apple cider mix to arrive, and pretty much any fall-themed drink recipe I could find involved apple cider. At long last it arrived, and this post will cover two cider-themed recipes so you can formally get into your boozy holiday spirit (whatever that means for you).

In case you were blissfully unaware, apple cider has a shitload of carbs and sugar. I mean, it’s basically pressed apples, right? Many of the recipes I skimmed in my research had a section devoted to making homemade apple cider for their beverages, no less – and many of their recipes called for an extra half-cup or cup of sugar on top of what comes out of pressing apples to begin with. Holy shit. So, what is a diabetic to do?

Naturally, I went searching for sugar-free apple cider, because there’s a sugar-free option for everything. Weirdly, the product that got the best reviews (and that I ended up ordering) was a powdered mix called Sugar-Free Alpine Spiced Cider Mix, which sounds gross, but I decided to trust the reviews and go for it. When I first made a batch (which is done by basically tossing a pack into hot water and stirring), I tried it and felt like it was ok but missing something, so I added a pinch of cinnamon and a cinnamon stick to soak, and that actually did the trick. It really tasted pretty good.  Then I chilled it in the fridge to make my drinks and the flavor held. So I’m going to go ahead and recommend this as well because it really wasn’t half bad, and it turned out really well in my drinks. Another option would be to just get some damn apple cider and try to use as little as possible, maybe by diluting in some seltzer water or something – but that wouldn’t give you the intense cider flavor these drinks call for, and what fun is that?

This time I really did plan on following some drinks recipes, but changed my mind again because I didn’t like them, or they had an ingredient I disapproved of. So both of the following recipes are D4D originals!

And, PS – I recommend making a big batch of this apple cider mix and chilling in advance of your drink making. The toddy can be made hot, but the mule should be cold.

The Caramel Cider "Mule"

The Sugar-Free Caramel Cider “Mule”

Sugar-Free Caramel Cider “Mule”

*This recipe resulted in a net zero BG affect for me. There is no actual sugar in this drink, other than what is naturally in the Bourbon!

**You will want to make your cider in advance and chill in the fridge for this beverage.

Ingredients (makes one beverage):

  • 4 oz sugar free apple cider (using the Sugar Free Alpine Spiced Cider mix as described above)
  • 5 oz diet ginger beer
  • 2 oz bourbon
  • 0.5 oz Sugar Free Salted Caramel Torani Syrup
  • Cinnamon stick for garnish/flavor

Recommended steps:

  • Light one of those apple cinnamon holiday candles so your house smells like you just made actual apple cider. If you also turn on Christmas music that’s fine, but please just don’t tell me.
  • Fill a copper mule mug with ice
  • Pour all ingredients into mug (over ice) and stir
  • Top with cinnamon stick

 

The Sugar-Free Apple Cider Toddy

The Apple Cider Toddy

Apple Cider Toddy

*This beverage is a close relative to my “Old Fashioned Caramel Apple Toddy” referenced in the prior post, but has a cider twist and can be made hot.

**This beverage resulted in a net zero BG affect for me; there was some sugar in the flavored whiskey but the acidity of the bitters and lemon, plus the consumption of alcohol kept any rise minimal.

***You may want to make your cider in advance and chill in the fridge for this beverage, but this one would also be good hot so it’s your call.

Ingredients (makes one beverage):

  • 6 oz sugar free apple cider
  • 1 oz bourbon
  • 1 oz apple whiskey
  • 4-5 drops Angostura bitters
  • Slice of fresh lemon

Recommended steps:

  • Light one of those apple cinnamon holiday candles so your house smells like you just made actual apple cider. If you also turn on Christmas music that’s fine, but please just don’t tell me.
  • Pour cider, bourbon, whiskey, bitters and some ice into a cocktail shaker and mix well
  • Add large spherical ice cube to your glass (they melt more slowly and are better for complex beverages like this one because they won’t water it down)
  • Pour mixture in cocktail shaker into glass, over cube
  • Squeeze lemon slice(s) into glass. Stir. Can add another lemon slice for garnish.
The Old Fashioned Caramel Apple Toddy

OMFGGGG Fall, Part 1

You guys, it fucking snowed this weekend. SNOWED. One second it was 65, bluebird skies and beautiful fall colors, and the next it was fucking freezing ass cold and I was walking my dog in snow boots. FUCK. THIS. And welcome to Colorado, where we have all four seasons, but fall is like 1.5 days so don’t blink or you’ll miss it.

I’ve been insisting for weeks that I’m not ready for winter (and truly, I’m not), but I’ve also been preparing for the change of seasons by stocking up on the AMAZING BOUNTY that Trader Joe’s offers in everything pumpkin flavored, ordering sugar free pumpkin pie syrup and apple cider EVERYTHING, and, naturally, stalking TJ Maxx looking for dog costumes. I’ve also been hard at work researching fall-themed beverages, because I plan to booze it up in style while also carbing up in preparation for my 2.5-month hibernation (don’t tell my Orangetheory gym), where I like to hide in my house in order to avoid psychotic Christmas shoppers.  The only time of year I feel as though I can legitimately sport my office ass is between now and New Years, and I take that job seriously.

That's the dog in a unicorn hoodie, because fall.

I find the best shit in TJ Maxx. That’s the dog in a unicorn hoodie, because fall. And obviously, she learned side eye from her mom.

It turns out that the holidays don’t favor diabetics (color us surprised), and finding recipes, and alternate ingredients, that are not pure sugar or extremely high carb has been harder than expected. Good thing I like a challenge.

Not gonna lie, I didn’t find much to work with on the drink recipe front. When researching “low sugar fall themed drinks” I found a lot of quote unquote “low carb” apple cider recipes. It was rather confusing. Do people not know what sugar is or where it comes from? However, I did learn a few things. Fall-themed drinks tend to favor the following flavors: apple cider (or anything apple in general), cranberry, pomegranate, vanilla, caramel, pumpkin/pie, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. They also seem to favor heavier liquors, like bourbon, dark rum, and flavored vodkas, as well as creams, and hot bases, like tea and coffee. This can make fall flavor combinations a little tricky, since it’s not always easy to find low carb or perfect alternatives for some of the key flavors – but not impossible. And, the higher fat content in some of the drinks can be a plus, since fat absorbs more slowly, giving insulin time to get to work on any associated sugars in the drink.

Amazon’s whack shipping system screwed me a tad last week, so I’ve decided I’ll share my fall recipes in two phases since my sugar free apple cider mix is still somewhere in the middle of the country. (And also, just the fact that I had to order sugar-free apple cider mix online should tell you something about diabetes and fall).

Because of the limited recipe options, I actually concocted my own drink for the first recipe, and then used a recipe I ended up tweaking for the second drink.

The Old Fashioned Caramel Apple Toddy

The Old Fashioned Caramel Apple Toddy

The “Old Fashioned” Caramel Apple Toddy

*This beverage resulted in a net zero BG affect for me; there was some sugar in the flavored whiskey but the acidity of the bitters and lemon, plus the consumption of alcohol kept any rise minimal.

Ingredients (makes one beverage):

  • 1 oz Apple Whiskey
  • 1.5 oz Bourbon (get the good shit for this drink)
  • 0.5 oz Sugar-Free Salted Caramel Torani syrup
  • 3-4 drops Angostura bitters
  • Squeeze in a couple of fresh lemon slices
  • Cinnamon stick for flavor
  • Large ice cube (I have sphere molds but a square mold would work just fine)

Recommended steps:

  • Measure whiskey, bourbon, Torani and bitters into small glass. Mix.
  • Add large spherical ice cube (they have a larger surface area, and thus melt more slowly and won’t make your drink taste like melted water)
  • Squeeze lemon slices over mixture and ice cube.
  • Stir drink with cinnamon stick. You can leave it in if you like a stronger cinnamon flavor, or remove for future use after a few stirs.

 

Pumpkin pie martini. Pictured with chocolate chip pumpkin protein cookies.

Pumpkin Pie Martini. Pictured with pumpkin spice chocolate chip cookies.

Pumpkin Pie Martini (Though I’m calling it Halloween Eggnog in my head)

*This drink caused a moderate rise in my BG after consumption, but I was also eating these pumpkin spice chocolate chip cookies while I was making the drinks, so that may have had something to do with it (ya think?). This is not a perfectly controlled experiment… what can I say.

Normally I’d credit the person who provided inspiration for this recipe, but I had to make a lot of tweaks because I thought their recipe was a little nasty. So, I’ll just say this is like 50% a D4D original.

Ingredients (makes two martinis):

  • 2 oz vodka (again, go with the good stuff – I had some Tito’s left over from the previous round of martinis so I used that). For the record, the original recipe actually called for vanilla vodka, but those can be very sugary, so I used good vodka and added vanilla extract to capture the flavor.
  • 1.5 oz dark rum
  • 0.5 oz Sugar Free Torani pumpkin pie syrup
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp half & half (the original recipe called for heavy cream and I didn’t have any handy; half & half seemed to do the trick for me)
  • 3/4 cup skim milk (or milk type of your preference – I can’t stand heavy milks or creams so I try to go as light as possible)
  • Optional: 1 squeeze liquid Stevia or similar if not sweet enough
  • Optional: A couple shakes of pumpkin pie spice if you really want to up your pumpkin ante
  • Optional: some crushed nuts and Stevia crystals to rim the glass (that was too much work for me so I skipped it)

Recommended steps:

  • Combine vodka, rum, syrup, pumpkin, half & half, and milk in cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously to ensure pumpkin puree distributes evenly in the liquid.
  • Pour equal amounts of liquid into martini glasses.
  • Shake small amount of pumpkin pie spice over the drinks for garnish.

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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.

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

IMG_1863

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.

 

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?).

IMG_1742

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
IMG_1740

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:

IMG_1680

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.

IMG_1682

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.