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

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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?).

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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
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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.

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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.

 

 

 

Random handy tips & tricks: Installment 1

By necessity, diabetics are a pretty resourceful lot. Being a healthy diabetic requires a shitload of supplies and a level of preparedness usually reserved for a girl scout (raise your hand if anyone has ever called you that when you hauled out your bag of diabetic crapola to calibrate/adjust a sensor/inject, etc.). Having a fickle/dead organ can result in some fun surprises, most often at highly inopportune times (my favorite diabetic surprise so far was having a low while in the middle of negotiating the purchase of a vehicle and having to explain why I was consuming Skittles while signing $30k+ of my life away – I really like to keep it classy) and I’ve found the more prepared I am, the less intrusive my disease needs to be.

Now that I’ve launched the blog, I’ve become a little more woke to my day to day coffee/cocktail consumption routine, and have noted some of the little tricks I’ve learned that make my life easier and the disease less obnoxious. These are aggregated both through my own trial and error, but also from reading learnings from other diabetics and diabetic blogs, so the credit belongs fully to the community.  These are by no means comprehensive and this is an evolving process, so I’m loosely calling this Installment 1.

Oh, and BTW – please leave your own learnings in the comments! We can keep this discussion rolling.

Anything in liquid sugar form is a fucking PITA for my pancreas. What I mean by this is that for diabetics, managing sugar intake is the name of the game, period, right? And I’ve found, in my limited experience, that managing sugar in liquid form is extraordinarily difficult because it absorbs much more quickly into the bloodstream and it’s nearly impossible for any short-acting insulin to keep up in order to manage it (unless you really time an injection/bolus carefully). Therefore, from the perspective of a blogger writing about things in liquid form, one of the main goals of my recommendations, recipes, ideas, etc. will be to avoid sugary liquid in any form as much as possible. The good news is that there are a lot of ways to swap/skip those ingredients, as well as several methods to slow down the rate of absorption so it’s much more manageable if you really must consume sugar.

Artificial sweeteners in varying forms have changed my life. I’m going to talk about these a LOT, because they are my go-to replacements for a lot of sugary ingredients. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I’m NOT A DOCTOR and I am aware there are mixed reviews on artificial sweeteners and their potential affects on health. In fact, here’s an ADA overview of a few, or feel free to google “artificial sweeteners and Diabetes” and go to town. Ultimately, these are just my opinions and you should do what’s right for your own health.

My personal favorite of all of the sweetener options is Stevia in its varying forms; the research indicates that it’s the most natural option (because it’s literally plant-derived) and to me, has the least chemical flavor. I use it in almost everything I make.

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Varying Stevia options currently in my cabinet, both in crystal and liquid form. Most of these can be found at any major grocery store.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention another flavor assist: Sugar-free Torani syrup. Anyone who has had fancy coffee drinks with some kind of flavor added has had Torani, which, as far as I know, is the most widely used brand of syrup for flavoring coffee drinks nationwide. And because there is a god, Torani makes a ton of sugar-free flavors that are GREAT. More on Torani and its amazing-ness coming in other posts.

I carry my sweetener of choice with me, everywhere I go. I cannot tell you how many times a couple of Stevia packets have saved my ass. And, if you’re thinking “I don’t want to carry extra shit” — for those diabetic girl scouts, are a couple of square sized packets really going to push you over the edge in terms of space management? I mean, really.

Here’s a couple examples of why these things save my ass:

  1. I like to go to fancy, pretentious new coffee shops to try their espresso or cold brew because I love good coffee and I like trying all the new roasts in my vicinity. I’m also a coffee snob, but not hard core enough to drink coffee black; I like a little cream and sweetener in it (and I’m assuming most of you are wusses like me because places like Starbucks are still in business). Because these places are so pretentious, they often only offer “organic agave nectar hand-picked by your local dude with a beard and a trucker cap” and they believe in minimalism, so if you don’t want agave because you can’t consume liquid sugar, you can pretty much suck it. Hey, look at that! I’ll just surreptitiously pull out my Stevia packet, sneak half into my coffee when no one’s looking, and enjoy my snobby coffee like a champion.
  2. Wayyy more to come on this later, but when I go out and have drinks, many times it’s at places that don’t actually have artificial sweeteners on hand if I ask them to cut sugary ingredients out of drinks. Think: bartender at club who is like “WTF dude you’re at a skeevy club and you want Sweet & Low? Are you fucking kidding me?”. I don’t want to suffer through something bitter and horrible because I’m at a skeevy club, so voila! Order gin & soda & lime and add Stevia, enjoy excellent drink as though you are an excellent dancer.

And, I keep my sweetener and the rest of my shit classy. Even though I’m making jokes about girl scouts, the truth is that if you’re a diabetic and you plan to make a night of it drinking/clubbing, you can’t be a dumbass because alcohol and diabetes have some issues when running in parallel. If I plan on really making a night of it, I will always make sure I have the right stuff with me to deal with a severe high or low. But I do like to keep it classy, and I’m not going to haul around my Harry Potter purse if I actually plan to dance, which is why I love my Myabetic purse. I’m not getting paid to say anything about Myabetic and there are plenty of blogs out there touting their amazingness so I’ll keep it short – my point is that there are plenty of ways to be a classy, drinking diabetic without again, having to sacrifice much of anything, including style.

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My Myabetic purse with all my crap (note, importantly, Stevia packets on left which are always in there). You can use the cross body strap or remove it and just use the wrist strap.

I really would have thought this was all a no-brainer and maybe it is for you, but I can’t tell you how many diabetics I recently surprised at a Type 1 social in Denver when I whipped out my handy Stevia packet to add to my sugar-free drink.

I’ll see you at the club, sweetener in hand.