Issue #108: The Courage Issue

Everyone knows that one of the best parts of summer is days (and nights) spent under the sun (or stars) with good friends, and a cocktail in hand. But everybody also knows that one of the worst things about summer is when said cocktail in your hand is crazy high in calories and sugar, especially since the lower-calorie options on the drink menu are generally not particularly enticing. Frustrated with the lack of worthwhile healthy cocktails on the market, business partners Maria Baum and Hilary Pereira set out last year to create a not-so-diet diet cocktail mixer that could solve all of our summer cocktail dilemmas. The result, Splash Mixers, has managed to do just what its name promises: make a total splash on the cocktail (and mocktail, for that matter) scene – not just in the summer, but all year long. Here, we chat with founder Hilary Pereira about the idea behind Splash, the versatility of these mixers, and why 20 calories have pretty much never tasted better.

Doug Young
Doug Young

How did the founders you and Maria come up with the idea to start Splash Mixers?

Maria owns a few high-end restaurants in the Hamptons area, but she also owns a fitness company. My background is much more in entertaining. I published a book in 2012 called Mermaids and Martinis, and it was mainly about cocktail ideas and recipes. So when we came up with the idea to create a drink, she was really focused on the health aspect, and I wanted drinks to taste amazing, and not diet-tasting. The goal was to create a product that’s not meant to be this diet version of a cocktail, but that is just natural, gluten-free, lower in sugar and salt, also happens to be a lot lower in calories, but with a flavor that feels like you’re drinking something freshly made at the bar.

I think I read somewhere that in the very beginning, there was a Keurig-like machine involved in the concept. What happened with that?

I did originally talk about doing a Keurig for cocktails at one point, yes! But when we started working on this idea, we kind of went from the original concept to saying “Hey, you know, there’s still no amazing mixture on the market. Let’s do that first.” So we took the mixtures straight to the bottle and launched two sizes: a mini bottle and a 750mL. The 750mL is perfect for hosting a party and using it at home, and the little guys are really good for hotels and mini bars.

You guys have five flavors currently, right?

Correct, yes. We have Moscow mule as one flavor, and that could be both a Moscow mule and a Dark and Stormy when you add rum. We’ve got a margarita flavor, which is made with this really organic blue agave, so it’s got a creamy texture and people are usually surprised with the bottle. I’m really proud of the margarita because it’s kind of a hard one to master without having it be too tart. Then we also have a cosmopolitan, a ginger pear flavor, and a mojito.

Why did you choose the five you settled on?

They’re a little different than the usual go-tos. Something like Moscow Mule or a Bay St. Ginger isn’t usually going to be expected with more mainstream offerings like a cosmo or a mojito. So that was part of it. But then there were different reasons for each, too. So for a few, it was really that they are more strategically known. Margaritas and mojitos are great summer drinks, and we launched last summer so the timing was right for those. The cosmopolitan is like your New York classic, so that was good since we’re based in between New York City and The Hamptons. The Bay St. Ginger felt really beautiful and elegant, and I like that it’s so good with prosecco because I really wanted a good brunch cocktail. And then for the last one, I’ll be honest, a Moscow mule is just really on trend right now, and I wanted something healthier because a can of ginger beer is over 200 calories and super high in sugar. I just figured since people are drinking them anyway, why not try to create a healthier version.

Doug Young
Doug Young

What was the process of actually creating the mixers and the flavors like?

My main intent was to make sure the first drink presented was “the gold standard.” This meant going to farmer’s markets and speciality food stores to find the best ingredients, then making the drinks in my kitchen first before bringing them to our beverage lab where we then made it 20 calories and gluten-free. We also wanted to make sure that, between Maria and I, we always had a strong composite of tasters, like mixologists, bartenders, etc. We make sure that everyone we knew we wanted to have an opinion from helped taste and give feedback on the flavors.

Are there plans to expand beyond the current five flavors at all?

It’s so cool, we have about 20 flavors that I made in the lab that are not bottled, but they range from a Lavender Collins to a Blood Mary to a paloma. So for sure, we have many more flavors to bottle. We’re also just all about innovation and love collaborating with brands to provide custom flavors for different people. For example, we launched three special flavors for the New York Yankees: the Grand Slam, the Triple Play, and the Big Apple. They’re exclusively only sold at Yankee Stadium, you can’t get them anywhere else. So those are selling out, they come in this cool branded signature Yankee cocktail shaker, and that was exciting for us to do something with such a cool brand collaboration.

Who do you think the key Splash consumer is?

I think our target is just anyone who wants to drink a mojito but also wants to live a healthier lifestyle. So, basically everyone. I mean, the fact that I can even serve this at baby showers because the pregnant mom can have it as a mocktail or something like that – it just really is so versatile.

What do you think Splash brings to the table that sets it apart from other healthy cocktail options?

I mean, the versatility, for sure. I call it the LBD of cocktails because it goes from day to night. So, for example, I love drinking it with sparkling water during the day because it’s a better option than another cup of coffee or some sugary alternative like soda, and some people really love that you can mix it that way for a good mocktail because they’re all non-alcoholic themselves. I also drink the mojito with vodka instead of traditional rum and it’s delicious. It’s like a mint cocktail. And our ginger pear flavor is actually a really great flavor because you can put in a splash of prosecco and it’s like drinking a bellini or a mimosa for something light, but then you can also add it to bourbon for the fall and winter, and it becomes a more warming drink. And that one is also amazing with gin, vodka, you can pretty much put it with anything.

Doug Young
Doug Young

What about in terms of how easy it is to actually use Splash. Is this something that anyone can really use in their homes?

Absolutely. We say that with Splash, “the bartender is in the bottle.” We just made them so easy. It’s one part spirit, one part Splash – that’s it. It takes all the work out. There’s no muddling, no mixing, no messiness, and no waste of fresh ingredients. So many people in the summer want to host BBQs and parties, but they are intimidated and will just cop out and decide to serve beer and wine. But with this, you could have your own self-service cocktails with great mixers, and you could make pitchers of it so people just pour into their cups. It really helps elevate a party with very minimal work and effort from the host. It’s like being your own mixologist with these guys because they’re easy to build a cocktail or just the straight one-to-one finished product.

What was the idea behind the packaging?

Maria was really clear that she did not want this to be a drink that polarized just men. And, I mean, the taste speaks for itself when it comes to men and women. Men love the drink. So we wanted to make sure the packaging was really created to be attractive to both men and women, too. The design is not super girly, and it’s really just very simple, plain white and black. The paint on the bottle is eco-friendly, too. What we really had success with this year was that you can actually draw right on the paint or write a message with Sharpie, colored marker, or pencil. So I’ll bring gifts to my friends and write like “Happy Housewarming” right on the bottle instead of buying a wine bag or gift bag. You can write right on the bottle and it looks really personalized and elegant.