Friday, June 29, 2012

Truvia® Behind The Bar Launch

A few years ago, I was hired to manage the opening of a high-concept cocktail lounge in New York City's Rockefeller Center.  I wanted the drink menu to showcase quality cocktails that would appeal to the image-conscious Midtown crowd and allow them to indulge in drinks that fit with lifestyles that also included gym workouts, running, biking, and yoga.  My mother had always been a health food nut (I grew up taking fourteen vitamins every morning with breakfast, a practice I continue to this day) and some time back had suggested that I try making cocktails with stevia extract in place of simple syrup.  This seemed like the perfect time to try out her idea.

People had of course been making cocktails with sugar substitutes for years, but these were always looked down on by both the beverage industry and the drinking public.  The Office's Michael Scott famously drank Scotch and Splenda, clearly indicating that he had no clue how to properly enjoy Scotch.  However, I was determined to create a stevia drink with full cocktail cred.

I started with stevia extract as Mom suggested, but found that it was difficult to purchase in bulk for foodservice use.  Also, the bottles that I bought from health food stores varied in sweetness and flavor profile, which made it difficult to deliver a consistent drink to my guests.  Finally, I tried stevia-based Truvia® Natural Sweetener and all my problems were taken care of.  Well, almost all my problems.

Truvia® is extremely consistent, widely available, and dissolves easily in drinks.  It also doesn't have any of the off-flavors or aftertaste that are usually associated with sugar substitutes.  And the best part was that I could make Truvia® syrups that substitute directly for sugar simple syrup.  Unfortunately, at that time Truvia® was only available in tabletop packets, which meant that my bar staff had to tear open hundreds of packets a night to make our zero-calorie syrup.

Meanwhile, the drinks I'd created using Truvia® had become runaway hits at the lounge.  The Raspberry Lojito, made with Truvia® syrup, was the best-selling cocktail on our menu, followed closely by the Steve Collins, named for the stevia used in making Truvia®.  So, I contacted Truvia®, told them what I was doing, and asked if the product was available in packaging better suited for bulk use in a commercial bar.  I found out it wasn't, but they were working on it.  I resolutely continued to tear open Truvia® packets and add to my Truvia® cocktail recipe collection as I waited for the foodservice packaging to be ready.

Truvia® Raspberry Lojito

This spring, the wait was over.  On April 19th, I had the pleasure of joining the Truvia® team at The Hurricane Club in New York City for the launch of their Behind the Bar Product.  Amid an incredible selection of Truvia® cocktails created by Chef Craig Koketsu and his staff, I witnessed the unveiling of the perfect tool for bars and restaurants to create lower-calorie cocktails.  The new packaging contains the same trusted ingredients as the Truvia® I'd been using for years, but in a format that made creating Truvia® syrups foolproof -- simply add the entire contents of one package to 1/2 gallon of water, mix well, and you have a half-gallon of zero-calorie syrup ready to use in cocktails, or even flavor with things like ginger, rose water, or lemongrass.  I also like to add fresh-squeezed lemon juice and make a natural, super-low-calorie sour mix.

Truvia® really got the details right with this product.  The packaging is water-proof and resealable, and stands upright to make sure the Truvia® ends up in your cocktails and not on your bar floor.  Plus, it's available nationwide from some of the biggest foodservice suppliers in the country.  What I really like is that it encourages bartenders to put just a little extra thought into how they sweeten drinks.  For example, while you're making Truvia® syrup, it only takes a second to add rose water and create a unique flavored sweetener that will take an old fashioned to a new level.  Steep some citrus peel in your syrup and add another layer of depth and complexity to your margarita.

But it's consumers who ultimately have the most to gain from this new product.  Or more correctly, the most to lose.  Creative bartenders will be able to keep the calories in a cocktail very close to only the amount added by the alcohol (about 65 calories per ounce).  Lemon and lime juice contribute just a handful of calories per ounce, and herbs like mint, basil, lemongrass, and ginger bring loads of flavor with almost no calories.  Using Truvia® syrups properly can easily reduce a 300-calorie, artificial-tasting, run-of-the-mill margarita to a 100-calorie, fresh-lime-and-ginger masterpiece bursting with fresh flavor and perhaps just a hint of orange peel.

I can't wait to see what the bar industry does with Truvia's Behind the Bar Product -- I know I've only just scratched the surface of fit and fresh, skinny cocktails myself.  Let me know what you're doing with Truvia® cocktails, and if you want to check out more of my recipes, including tips on creating your own flavored Truvia® syrups, visit

Raspberry Lojito
-In a tall glass, muddle:
   4 Large Mint Leaves
   2 Lime Wedges
   4 Raspberries
   1 3/4 tsp Truvia® natural sweetener Behind the Bar spoonable or 2 packets Truvia® natural sweetener
   Ice to top of glass
   1-1/4 oz. Oronoco Rum
-Roll into mixing tin and back into glass, add:
   Soda Water to top
-Garnish with a mint leaf pinned to rim with a lime wedge.

For this recipe, Truvia® natural sweetener version contains 90 calories, 9 g carb, 0.5 g sugar, 7 g erythritol compared to a sugar control which has 150 calories, 18 g carb, 17 g sugar. This is a 40% calorie reduction and 95% sugar reduction.