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Stevens Point business aims to create inclusive cocktail environment

Published: Jul. 5, 2021 at 6:56 PM CDT
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STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) - The number of songs about hot summer weather with a cool drink in hand is seemingly endless. A Stevens Point business is aiming to ensure that cool drink is inclusive no matter if there is alcohol in it.

Drinks hold a symbolic place in American, and in particular Wisconsin culture. Whether it is champagne for a celebration, a beer at a ballgame, or punch at a party, there is a drink associated with nearly every occasion. For some, it is a ritual of going out to drinks with friends or coworkers, or having a nightcap at home to wind down.

Drinks bring people together, but as Mindy McCord and Layne Cozzolino found, it can also create separation between those who have alcohol in their cups and those who do not.

“Our mission has become to create space for everyone at the table no matter their drinking preference and we’re really just taking away the question of why or why not you’re drinking,” McCord said.

The two have experience exploring food and connecting it with the community. They began a friendship when they worked at Emy J’s in Stevens Point together. They would often experiment with food in their kitchens when they stumbled upon something called shrub.

“It’s a colonial beverage, it’s from way back in the day, came over on the sea and it went away with refrigeration, but came back with the craft cocktail movement,” McCord explained.

It essentially is a syrup that can be added to any drink. It is made up of three ingredients: apple cider vinegar, cane sugar, and then a fruit, root, or herb.

“When I was pregnant, shrubs became my go-to for a non-alcoholic beverage that I can enjoy that had a complexity and the ritual of a cocktail in the evening,” Cozzolino said.

A few years after they learned about and explored shrubs, they created a company, Siren Shrub Co. They found that there was an opportunity to create an inclusive space for people who want to drink alcohol and those who do not.

“We did some customer interviews last summer that really spoke to why people would like to destigmatize non-alcoholic drinks. And also, they want to have similar experiences when they go out and have a drink at a restaurant with a beautiful glass, a garnish, something that’s complex, flavorful, and does all of the things to tingle your taste buds that an alcoholic beverage does,” Cozzolino explained.

They found more than half of their customers used their shrub syrup in non-alcoholic cocktails. They now have recipes and suggestions for drinks with or without alcohol.

“In Wisconsin, our drinking culture is very, very strong and it’s not about taking that culture away it’s really about bringing in a culture of inclusivity that everybody has a cool drink in their hand,” Cozzolino said. “You don’t need to know or question whether or not there’s alcohol in that drink.”

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