Drinking can be tricky – empty calories can bring on unwanted weight gain and leave one feeling lousy. But what if there was a cocktail that was out there that focused on creating a healthy, low-calorie, yet delicious drinking experience? That’s exactly what Maven Cocktails founder Stephanie Harris asked herself. After working with many of the world’s most respected wineries and spirit brands, she heard the call for a better selection of wines in bars, clubs, and lounges. After two years of research and development, she perfected the recipe that would become Maven Cocktails. Available in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the coast of Central California, the wines are combined with premium gluten-free American vodka in order to create a super premium wine-infused vodka cocktail. It is a health conscious, and might I say delicious, way to enjoy your next night out! To learn more about Maven Cocktails and the idea of a healthier cocktail, we turned to founder Stephanie Harris to ask some questions: What’s your background in the spirits industry? I’ve been working in the industry for nearly 20 years and I was lucky to have the opportunity to work with some of the world’s top wine and spirits brands during that time. I started out in a sales role at Monsieur Touton Selection. I found it fascinating and I read everything I could about wine and spent the majority of my free time going to tastings. I wanted to sharpen my skills, so I completed both the Sommelier Society of America’s Captains Course and the International Wine Center’s six-month training during that same time. And after a year, I was offered a position within a new division at Charmer Industries, which is now Empire Merchants, where I really continued to build my knowledge. Over the years, I was truly able to see the power of “the brand” for myself by working with such industry leaders as Tanqueray and that is where the inspiration to create my own brand began. What made you want to pair vodka with wine? Over the years, I’ve interacted with many consumers who love wine, but were disappointed by the offerings available at most restaurants, bars and clubs. They wanted to be able to order their favorite brands rather than just order a random Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. Many of them were also let down by their experiences with mixed drinks, which they felt tasted vastly different based on not only the venue, but on the bartender’s individual pour. I was sympathetic to these issues and knew that what they were craving was a high quality and consistent experience. They wanted something they could order by name and know what they were getting every single time. That was when I started thinking that I wanted to develop something that could change that. I had also heard from friends, that although wine was their alcoholic beverage of choice, that they felt it had a sleepy buzz that really wasn’t suited for a night out on the town. And something I was personally becoming more and more interested in was making healthier choices. I knew I was not alone in that. So really, I was inspired to create Maven to solve several problems. The big spirits brands are genuinely not interested in innovation and they’re not particularly good at it. They tend to develop products, not based on what the consumer wants, but on their core product categories. It took a lot of research, experimentation and refinement to really get a sense of what was possible, but I knew I was on to something. By infusing great wines into super premium vodka, I was able to create a cocktail that had the taste of wine but without that sleepy, mellow feeling you can get from drinking just wine. It also solved the quality and consistency issues. And Maven Cocktails are a healthier alternative to traditional cocktails. I wanted to create something that drew upon my love for wine, but also pushed the envelope. Every time I talked with friends about it, they offered me so much encouragement and that really helped propel me forward. Why was it important that Maven is gluten-free Again, it comes from the fact that I’ve always been health conscious and interested in staying fit. About five years ago, I removed gluten from my diet and couldn’t believe how great I felt; my energy was consistent throughout the day and at a higher level. So if I was going to create a healthier cocktail, it only made sense to ensure it was gluten free. We love the packaging, why’d you choose a frosted glass bottle instead of plastic? I wanted a glass bottle for a couple of reasons. First of all, since Maven is made using super premium vodka and fine wines and I wanted the bottle to reflect the quality and sophistication of our cocktails. The other reason is simply that many people prefer the convenience of a bottle. I wouldn’t think of telling you how to enjoy your cocktail, especially since wine is surrounded by so many traditions, but I designed the bottle with a wide mouth opening to echo the experience of drinking from a glass. I also gave the bottle a re-closable cap, so that not only can you close it back up and take it with you to the dance floor, but you also don’t have to worry about anyone potentially tampering with your drink. How many calories are in one bottle? A full bottle of Maven contains 171 calories. Traditional mixed drinks, such as a Cosmo or Mojito, have over 200 calories and that is based on about 4 to 5 ounces. A bottle of Maven is 6.8 ounces. So if you’re comparing Maven with wine, it’s like getting a glass and a third of wine. Do you foresee making any more flavors in the future? We are having a great response to our Chardonnay and Pinot Noir cocktails, so I am really focused on continuing to get the word out about those varietals before developing any new ones. It can take a year or longer to develop and perfect a new varietal, so there’s also that consideration. Having said that, something is in the pipeline … What’s your favorite mixed drink? Only a Maven, of course! Just kidding! I am a big fan of reposado tequila with a cube of ice. Some days I find myself in the mood for a Penicillin, although I like a floater of absinthe instead of Islay scotch. I also have a great wine cellar and can be found snooping around in there quite often. There’s an occasion for everything. Do you have any maven recipes? I created Maven to be the perfect cocktail, so recipes are not really a factor. You use the hashtag #madetomingle on social media! We love it! Is that the philosophy behind the drink? Made to mingle really captures the spirit of Maven. It works on several levels. Firstly, when I decided to mingle wine and vodka together to create my cocktails, I felt that it was such an exciting proposition that I was shocked that no one had thought about doing it before. And on the more “social” side of things, I wanted my brand to embody a sense of fun and that excitement of discovering something new. One thing I have experienced over and over again with Maven is that people are curious about it and it is truly a conversation starter. Whether it is the bottle that draws them in or the story of the brand, it leads to some fun connections. I also think people like to discover something cool and new. And Maven really is something completely new in the spirits world. We’re changing the conversation and people are really into it. Is there anything else you want our readers to know? I would love to take a moment to thank you for the opportunity to be introduced to your community. The success of Spa Week is an inspiration and I would like to think I’m on that journey. My exceptional team inspires me and we love how people respond to Maven. Like a great massage, we see every new fan as a blessing and are psyched for the road ahead. Where can they buy it? Our cocktails are available to order through our web site mavencocktails.com and also in top restaurants and nightlife venues, like Bond St., TAO, Lavo, Avenue & Cielo in NYC and The Setai Miami Beach and SLS South Beach in Miami. 8-15-15 Create & CultivateChicago, IL©2015 Jennifer Kathryn Photographywww.jenniferkathryn.com For more tantalizing drink stories, check out our Food & Drink section. Start a Conversation Cancel a Conversation Connect with Enter your WordPress.com blog URL http://.wordpress.com Proceed Your email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email.