How often do you find a ready-to-drink cocktail that’s organic, filled with fresh juices and no more than 100 calories per serving? The assumed answer: Not very often. That is, unless you’ve bumped into Starielle Newman of Willo Cocktails recently.
Newman, a recent Northeastern graduate, calls herself a healthy person. The problem? She could never find an option she’d feel good about drinking when she was out bar hopping with her friends. “[Willo Cocktails] is a drink I wish I had, had myself when I was in college,” Newman says.
Although she won’t call Willo Cocktails “healthy,” because “alcohol is inherently unhealthy,” she will admit it’s a better option to the other drinks out there. Made with agave syrup, fresh-squeezed orange juice, lime juice and tequila, each drink is geared toward the health-conscious people who don’t want to ruin the hard work they’re already doing to stay in shape.
Of course, Willo Cocktails isn’t the “first” low-calorie drink out there. Natural food chef and reality show star Bethenny Frankel unveiled Skinnygirl Cocktails back in 2009. Newman’s not daunted by that, though. “Eighty-percent of our taste testers prefer the taste of our margarita,” she says.
The hardest problem has just been trying to capture freshness in a bottle. Newman refers to the drinks you make in your kitchen at home, admitting the tequila you pour and fresh lemon and lime you squeeze are always going to taste refreshing. “It’s preserving that in bottle form, so we can give the convenience to our consumers,” Newman says.
Willo Cocktail’s gone through several taste tests, first from students within the Northeastern community, to anyone Newman bumped into. She’s now just waiting to have the physical prototype in her hand before the team starts actively seeking out investors.
Thanks to a grant from Northeastern’s Venture Accelerator program IDEA, Newman says they were able to get to prototype phase, but they’ll have a few government hurdles to jump, for both recipe and label approval, before they can start selling Willo Cocktails. Newman’s plan is to start with retail locations first, and then infiltrate into bars that are looking for more low-calorie options.
Although most students tend to turn to tech startups, Newman admits, “I love the idea of putting together a tangible product, and I love being able to create something and hold it in my hand. We don’t have to worry about explaining to people what it is we do.”
We’re excited to have this product in our hands, too. Low-calorie, delicious and packed with booze? Sign us up!