Let's face it: After almost two years of virtual happy hours, it's hard to get excited about making your own drinks in front of a laptop screen anymore. That is, unless the person hosting said Zoom is Blake Lively — and then you obviously immediately clear your schedule.
The virtual experience in question was in celebration of Betty Buzz, Lively's recently-launched line of non-alcoholic sparkling mixers made from "clean" ingredients. And truly, it was everything I hoped and dreamed it'd be. Lively played the part of Food Network host from her New York City apartment while her good friend Taylor's 10-minute version of All Too Well softly played in the background, and yes, Ryan Reynolds even dropped by to say hi.
So first thing's first: Lively knows it may seem a little strange that she created a line of mixers when she herself doesn't actually drink alcohol, but it kind of makes perfect sense. Ironically, she says she's always the bartender at any party she and Reynolds host, and finessing cocktail (or in her case, mocktail) recipes down to the type of ice and positioning of the garnish is one of her favorite calming activities. "I don't know how to relax, so my version of relaxing is making more stuff — I like to think I'm a New Yorker at heart but I'm really just secretly still a Burbank cheerleader," she jokes on the Zoom call.
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Lively isn't part of the new wave of 'sober curiosity' popularized by 'cool girls' like Bella Hadid — she's been open about her decision not to drink in interviews dating back to 2012. Still, Betty Buzz's timing is perfect for those who decided to cut out alcohol during the pandemic, but still want to socialize and connect (without the hangover). "For me, I don't drink because I don't like the effects of alcohol, but I like being a part of it. I like being social, I like people coming together," Lively explains. "Interestingly, I found that sometimes not drinking — it was a little alienating… maybe it's just in your own head, but you don't feel a part of it."
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That's why all of the five Betty Buzz flavors — Tonic Water, Sparkling Grapefruit, Meyer Lemon Club Soda, Sparkling Lemon Lime, and Ginger Beer — are designed to pair with any spirit (like say, her husband's label, Aviation Gin) but are also delicious enough to drink on their own if you aren't partaking for whatever reason, Lively says. "My husband and I have it all day long on its own — it's like sparkling water but with a little more oomph to it," she says. (And FYI if you're still wondering about the name, Betty was Lively's grandmother and aunt's name, and buzz because "the bubbles and flavors feel like a buzz of joy," she says in a press release.)
Funny enough, Lively loves the smell and flavor of alcohol, she explains while we make a seasonal drink — Betty Buzz ginger beer, apple juice, bark bitters, pomegranate seeds, a cinnamon stick, and the tiniest splash of bourbon for "woodiness". (Later on, she'll use a bit of tequila to rim her glass with salt or add a drop of Aviation Gin, for the smell.) "I don't drink, but I like the flavor of alcohol. When I cook, I love putting bourbon in any desserts or treats, but you're cooking it off, or I'll put a teeny tiny bit of bourbon in whipped cream," she explains.
Needless to say, I left the Zoom feeling inspired to start experimenting with cocktails beyond a basic vodka soda, and with a bunch of expert mixologist tips from Lively, like how to tilt your glass while pouring any carbonated mixer so your bubbles don't pop and make your drink flat and how to elegantly garnish your drinks so they don't look like they came from a Sandals resort (no offense to them!).
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One holiday hosting tip she shared from Reynolds' recent birthday party I will definitely be stealing? "Prep a bunch of seasonal garnishes ahead of time — mint, basil, fresh lavendar, sage, different citrus, berries — whatever feels like the right vibe, cut it and make it look pretty, cut them into different shapes and slices. Then you lay them out with the different [Betty Buzz] flavors and alcohols and a beautiful bowl of ice," Lively says. "People can make their own and it becomes an experience."
Flavors are offered in 12-packs for $29.99 online and at select retailers across the country.