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Avec’s drink mixers could change the way you make a cocktail

The year-old startup’s low-sugar, carbonated mixers include Jalapeño & Blood Orange and Yuzu & Lime flavors.

Avec’s drink mixers could change the way you make a cocktail
[Photo: courtesy Avec]

I like a flirty cocktail as much as the next person, but when left to my own devices I’m a fairly boring drinker: gin and tonics in the summer, whiskey ginger in the winter. I liked to think I was avoiding all the super-sweet additives that come from a night of frozen concoctions and tiki drinks. But when I found out the average can of tonic water has 32 grams of sugar, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, I was horrified. 

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[Photo: courtesy Avec]

Avec, a new premium mixer brand based in Brooklyn, hopes to be the solution. Founded last year by former Columbia Business School classmates, Dee Charlemagne and Alex Doman, the startup debuted with five canned and carbonated mixers: Jalapeño & Blood Orange, Grapefruit & Pomelo, Hibiscus & Pomegranate, Yuzu & Lime, and a ginger beer. The beverages are designed to be consumed on their own or with a spirit for a balanced cocktail with minimal effort. Each product is low-calorie, made with natural fruit juices and extracts, and has four grams of sugar or less. While a glass of unsweetened grapefruit juice contains nearly 20 grams of sugar, Avec’s Grapefruit & Pomelo mixer has just 3.

The name Avec comes from the French word for “with,” which Doman says is purposefully conjunctive so it rings nicely as a bar call. “We wanted it to be short and easy to say so you can stack it with a flavor,” he says. “Further down the line, we’d like people to say, ‘I want a vodka Avec Jalapeño & Blood Orange,’ for a bar call. Like a rum and coke.” Avec likens its trajectory to other premium disrupters of mixed drinks, like Fever-Tree, Q Mixers, and even Haus, which are also nutrition- and ingredient-conscious.

[Photo: courtesy Avec]

Charlemagne says the company’s colorful, playful branding is a celebratory nod to 1920s decadence—a concept developed before fantasies of post-pandemic revelry came to mind. Their initial pitch for the brand pre-dated the sober curious and hard seltzer boom, but with the surge of both, Charlemagne says that messaging around a health-conscious drinkers has become much easier. In a recent poll, they found around 35% of their customers drink Avec on its own. 

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Avec—which was recently named a finalist for Pharrell Williams’s Black Ambition Prize, an initiative that supports emerging Black founders—is currently available direct-to-consumer. The brand will soon be makings its way into bars, restaurants, and retailers, thanks to a new deal with a wholesaler. But Charlemagne and Doman see a natural fit for people who love entertaining, with Avec giving hosts a simple DIY bar solution for elevated cocktails. “Our customers are hosts and know how to make a cheeseboard and what invitations to send,” said Charlemagne, “but when it comes to cocktails they’re like, ‘am I going to do Coke and club soda and have a graveyard of mixers?’ Instead, this is a premium adult mixer.”

I tasted all five flavors of Avec—first on their own, then with a suggested spirit. I was struck by how subtle they were, not just in flavor, but in fizz. More of a gentle carbonation, like a LaCroix, which I like to think of as the most velvety of all seltzers.

At first, I thought they might just be bland, but then I remembered that this is what fruit grown in nature tastes like. The Grapefruit & Pomelo is bright, but slightly bitter, slightly tart. The ginger beer tastes like fresh ginger, snappy and herbaceous. And the Hibiscus & Pomegranate is floral, fruity, and just the right bit of sweet. It’s the elevated alternative to my go-to well drink: “vodka-soda and a splash of cran.” The Yuzu & Lime was not my favorite: I found it undrinkable, but I think I may not like yuzu, and in discovering that, I still give Avec credit in helping me recognize what a ripe yuzu tastes like.

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Avec makes your poor choices with alcohol all the more recognizable, leaning heavily on spirits to complement each flavor. In other words: Your low-tier tequila won’t be able to hide behind a syrupy, artificial lime-flavored mask when mixed with a can of Avec Jalapeño & Blood Orange. But that seems to be the point. You’re all grown up. Your mixers should be, too.

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