Hold the tonic! These juice based cocktail mixers are low in sugar but full of flavor. AVEC, the Brooklyn-based company, was created by Alex Doman, an English food and beverage consultant, and Denetrias Charlemagne, an advertising executive. While the drinks are intended to be mixed with a spirit of your liking, they actually taste delicious on their own. With bold flavors like hibiscus and pomegranate, they are the perfect replacement to bland club soda and sugary additives. We interviewed the founders to learn more about how they are elevating the drinking experience.
We would love to start with hearing about how AVEC came to be! Can you tell us AVEC’s origin story and what inspired you to create this delicious line of clean cocktail mixers?
After nearly a decade in the world of advertising and media, I went to business school in 2019 to try to round out my skillset and jump into the world of entrepreneurship. Alex, my co-founder and I met on the first day of business school and were connected by the fact that we were one of the few people in our class who wanted to be in the start up world rather than go into more traditional corporate jobs. Alex is a food and beverage consultant who presented the idea for AVEC in one of our first hangouts and it was such an obvious idea to me.Mixers did indeed suck and as the I was/am that girl who goes to the bar and always feels like I need to compromise between getting a really delicious but very sugary drink or just opting for a vodka soda.
He's British and I had lived in the UK, so we both had seen how the mixer category was way more interesting in the rest of the world. In the UK (and Europe) people actually went to the bar and called out their mixers like I want a Schewps or Fever Tree tonic. Yet in America, despite all the innovation in food and beverage and wellness – think like Halo Top, Oatly, or Sweetgreen which prove healthy things can be tasty – we’ve been settling for crap mixers. Emerging non-alcoholic options and craft spirits reveal a focus on what we put into our bodies and where it comes from. Until recently, the mixer category is dominated by a few big companies pumping out sugar-laden juices, chemical-filled sodas, and tasteless seltzers.
We will get into flavors later, but TLDR origin story is that we did not plan on launching during a pandemic but decided to move forward wit hour plan anyway. We graduated (virtually) in May 2020 and launched July 2020 mainly online, but with a small 6 feet apart bar IRL. The last 18 months have been a ride everything from celebrating big press moments, our first collaboration with a national retails – shout out to Williams Sonoma to facing the challenges of a global supply chain --- it goes on! At least we can have a drink.
AVEC has a range of such exciting flavors. What was your process like to determine which flavors to launch with?
We started by going after some of the most popular highball drinks/ mixers. Take your standy club soda, marg mix or cranberry juice and reimagine it with more interesting global flavors and dramatically less sugar and nasties. So for example, AVEC Yuzu & Lime replaces the need to add a splash of lime to a club soda, and with a hint of lemongrass gives your interesting flavors with 0 calories. AVEC Grapefruit & Pomelo goes after the traditional Paloma, but only has 3g of sugar and 15 calories in comparison to the 22g of sugar and 100 calories in the same serving of grapefruit juice. We started out by making recipes at home and doing lots and lots of taste tests with friends (any excuse to have a party!). We then narrowed it down and began to work with a formulator to get a professional product. We had way more than 5 ideas, but the ones we went with were ones that we felt scaled the best.
Our criteria was that everything needed to be under 5g of sugar and only use real ingredients and no artificial sugars – we did not want that “diet” feel that drinks with fake sugars give you. We also wanted them to be drinkable on their own, giving you the option to add as much or as little spirit as you want. You are an adult- pick your poison! I don't like the ready to drink stuff too much as I love knowing what spirit I am putting in and how much of it I am choosing to imbibe in. I also like the option of using AVEC as a mocktail – it is a more elevated and special adult drink than other options like bitters and sodas or just a can of juice!
AVEC has established a strong brand presence that feels effortlessly friendly, fun and also a bit cheeky at times. What was it like developing the brand aspect and figuring out how you wanted to present it to the world?
I spent my career in advertising and worked with so many brands – from General Mills, Starbucks, Dove or Red Stripe emerging brand – so I had a clear sense of how great brands were built. I also knew how agencies worked and just how much they charged – so relied on a network of talented freelance designers and creators to get the brand off the ground. We had so many diverse creators all coming from different places and backgrounds. So many health and wellness products can feel like they are only for the elite, we think of our audience as very diverse and make our team that way as well. We always knew that we wanted the personality to be fun and to feel accessible – it’s drinking after all!
You’ve managed to work in an inspiring give-back component, even as a company that’s just over a year old. Partnering with restaurants across NYC with proceeds going to support community fridges and joining the 1% for the Planet movement by helping to dramatically reduce waste and supply chain miles, to name a few. For other budding founders, do you have any tips or learnings to share on being able to balance launching a successful business while also thinking about how to thoughtfully make an impact?
It’s easy to say you will be mission oriented but super hard to do as a small business who is also trying to sustain on a shoestring budget. Alex and I always had sustainability and diversity (even before 2020) at the the what of our vision. We chose aluminum cans as the first step to making a sustainable choice and joined 1% for the planet as really what we think should be mandatory hygiene!
Lastly, we must hear your go-to cocktail or mocktail recipe of choice!
I have been into figuring out how to “flexi-drink” kinda like how people are flexi-tarians, I am think about ways to have no, low and non alcoholic options. Here are my faves
- No Alch: Love our hibiscus & pomegranate with a squeeze of lime and rosemary or mint – the herb addition makes it feel special
- Low Alch: Love a good mimosa, but start feeling lie there is too much sugar. Prosecco avec Grapefruit & Pomelo is so light and drinkinable, I love it!
- Full Alch – Winter calls for dark spirits so a little whiskey avec ginger is what I need!