Life Along the Streetcar with Tom Heath from The Heath Team Nova Home Loans

Cocktail Lab with Rachel D'Acquisto

On this week’s episode, we’re going to speak with Rachel D’Acquisto. She is the founder of Ray Ray’s Sonoran Spirit Tea and we’re going to find out how and why this downtown hospitality executive made a decision to brew up something different and start a new business.

Today is January 15th, my name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to “Life Along the Streetcar”.

Each and every Sunday our focus is on Social, Cultural and Economic impacts in Tucson’s Urban Core and we shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about. From A Mountain to the U of A and all stops in between. You get the inside track- right here on 99.1 FM, streaming on we’re also available on your iPhone or Android using our very own Downtown Radio app. Reach us by email [email protected] — interact with us on Facebook at LifeAlongTheStreetcar and follow us on Twitter @StreetcarLife

Our intro music is by Ryanhood and we exit with music from Pink Martini, “Tea For Two.”

Transcript (Unedited)

Good morning, it’s another beautiful Sunday in the old pueblo and you’re listening to Ktdt Tucson. Thank you for spending a part of your brunch hour with us on your downtown Tucson community sponsored rock and roll radio station.

On this week’s episode, we’re going to speak with Rachel D’Acquisto. She is the founder of Ray Ray’s Sonoran Spirit Tea and we’re going to find out how and why this downtown hospitality executive made a decision to brew up something different and start a new business.

Today is January 15, 2023. My name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to life along the streetcar. Each and every Sunday, our focus is on social, cultural and economic impacts in Tucson’s urban core and we shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about from a mountain to the University of Arizona and all stops in between. You get the inside track right here on 99.1 FM, streaming on downtown Also available on your iPhone or Android by heading over to your App Store or the Google

Play Store and picking up the Downtown Radio Tucson app here on the show. You can interact with us on Facebook and Instagram. If you want more information about our book, our past episodes or just to contact us, head over to And of course you can listen to our podcast on all kinds of platforms like Spotify, itunes or simply by saying, hey smart speaker, why don’t you play Life Along the Streetcar podcast? You can do that too. What’s always an exciting time in Tucson as we get into the new year because the weather is suitable for all kinds of events and festivals. Now through kind of like April, we have the Jazz Fest underway. Dillinger Day is happening this weekend, but also the challenge of weather can pose a little bit of a complication to plan. So with the Dillinger days having modified their outdoor event today, cutting it way down from what they had anticipated, and the weather likely to affect the outdoor jazz concert tomorrow and Martin Luther King day, just

be aware before you head out, check the weather reports, and it’s okay to still come downtown and maybe have a bite to eat and take a look around, see if you find something that you want to participate in. Even if the weather is not great. One thing that will be indoors starting January 19 and then in February happening every Thursday we have at the Tucson Gallery inside the proper shops at 300 East Congress, we’ve got Meet the Artist. So Randic F. Fletcher is the first artist being featured in that series and you may remember she and her husband Herman were on our show a couple of times talking about their efforts for sustainability, affordable housing and how they were using her art to help fundraise for that cause. Well, she is now one of the rotating artists at the Tucson Gallery and will be featured as a Meet the Artist presentation that’s January 19. There’s more information available at the website. And of course, if you stay tuned to our Facebook page, we’ll link

over to that. Let’s jump into our interview this week with Rachel Di Acuisto. She has been in downtown for years in many different roles, and she just recently launched a new venture called Ray Ray’s Sonoran Spirit Tea. Kind of ties into her background in our history and culture here. So I had a chance to talk with her by phone just a few days ago. We are blessed with the presence of what I call the human cocktail. Rachel Diacquisto. You have this varied background that went all mixed together in the right proportions, has turned out greatness here in Tucson. So, Rachel, welcome to the show.

Thank you.

You are the founder, the owner of Cocktail Lab AZ. And what I understand is recently you decided that wasn’t enough just to consult and help other people. You came out and created your own product, which we’ll talk about today. Ray ray’s, Sonoran.

T. Yes, we have.

Well, let’s take a step back, though, before we get into all of your greatness and accomplishments. Let’s find out about where this came from. You’ve been a fixture in downtown in the hospitality scene for some time. Give us a little bit about your history.

Yeah, I moved back to Arizona about ten years ago from the Bay Area and started working downtown again, downtown is thriving. I worked a little bit for neenards and hotel congress proper, good Oak Love Burger folks, and then landed at Playground. Stayed as the general manager of Playground Barn Lounge for about six or seven years until my most recent forced vacation during the pandemic, I got kind of antsy and started developing this new product.

And Cocktail Lab well, even before that because I think I ran into you first. You were doing part of the Arizona Bartenders Association and helping coordinate training for bartenders across the state, correct?

Yeah. I am president of a hospitality nonprofit here in Tucson, but it’s a national nonprofit called the United States Bartenders Guild, and its focus is as a charity for education and furthering the craft for hospitality professionals. So we bring a lot of resources, training and education to our Tucson hospitality industry workers. And I’ve been doing that. I’ve been part of the board and the council for about seven, eight years, and then the president for four.

Okay, so you don’t have a whole lot going on. You just started a company, president of the association, got some new products, but somewhere in there you created this concept of Cocktail Lab AZ. Which is what is it? It’s a consulting group or tell me more.

I provide hospitality services, anything from a team building exercise like a fun cocktail class with coworkers, to staff training and or systems consulting for bars and restaurants.

Okay, so it’s not just I thought it was just a consulting business. For bars and restaurants. But you do things with the general public as well.



Yeah, I kind of like to have fun with it and do things like the classes.

In these classes. Well, I guess my question was going to be how did you then get from this to creating your own product?

It was something that I always wanted to do. The hospitality services were kind of a placeholder while I learned how to make a product shelf stable, get my alcohol licenses and all the technical things of bringing a product to retail market and wholesale market.

Okay, so this wasn’t something that just sort of happened on. This has been part of the master plan and just been working on ways to get there.


And it sounds like raising a family as well.

Yeah. My three year old is very opinionated about her red shoes at the moment.

Well, red shoes are very important and I’ve been doing a little research, reading some BIOS and such. You’ve gotten a lot of really good press from different organizations about your efforts and it seems like with Tucson we always run across some common themes and one of your common themes is the support that you’ve received from Startup Tucson.

Yeah, I would not be in the position I am today without Startup Tucson. I was really able to my brainstorming and my ideas and my dream and really start checking off the boxes of how to own my own business and launch my own product.

And we’ve been doing more interviews with individuals that have come through the programs that they offer or have been connected to the program. So Startup Tucson itself is gaining this really big following in Tucson because their alumni, I guess is maybe the word for it, or their participants are really starting to have an impact and success in Tucson. And I think you’re a perfect example of that.

Yeah, I’m really grateful for the resources and the accessibility of my mentors. I was able to have quick, effective legal counsel, really tap directly into industry giants in terms of local industry giants. 1055 and Thunder Canyon were my closest mentors and it’s just valuable to me.

Those seem like good resources since they’re in a very similar position of doing some retail and wholesale of their products. Let’s talk about your creation then. You have one item on the shelves at the moment, but I’m assuming there’s others working. But tell us about Ray Ray’s Sonorantine.

I don’t know exactly where my passion for it ignited. I’ve just been stuck on this particular product and developing it and really passionate about this flagship product. It kind of got its niche in a world of options as a gluten free draft option. It’s low alcohol, it’s half caffeinated, it’s not malted or fermented, and it’s just something I have loved testing the recipes on and really perfecting. I’m super proud of it and I think it represents a regional product, regional flavors. And as the popularity is growing, I think it’s sort of proving its viability. And I’m super excited to continue to promote that as our flagship product and then start to develop spin offs and hopefully new products.

Back to the second half of our interview with Rachel Diaquisto. She is the owner of cocktail lab AZ and the founder of Ray Ray Sonoran Spirit T. First, I want to remind you that you’re listening to life along the streetcar on downtown radio 99.1 FM and streaming on

Greetings and salutations, downtown radio listeners. Paleo Dave, your unfrozen Caveman DJ, here to spread the good word about the Scrambled Sunrise rock mix happening every weekday morning from seven to 09:00 A.m. Right here on downtown radio. From the earliest days of Psych punk and new wave to 80s college rock, 90s alternative, and the ongoing wave of 21st century indie rock. It’s all right here on the Scrambled Sunrise. So tune in via 99.1 FM if you’re in the greater downtown area or streaming worldwide via Downtown

We are back with the second half of an interview with Rachel Diequesto. She is the founder and creator of Ray ray’s snore and spirit tea. Gave us a little bit of the history about herself and her product, and she mentioned that it is a good Tucson drink, very respectful and representative. So I wanted to find a little bit more about that. And really what does it take to come up with a signature cocktail like this? But you also then mentioned it’s representative of the region. How so?

Well, in terms of the flavor and one of the most popular classic cocktails that kind of inspired, it a Long Island iced tea. How would you update that? And so it’s sort of an Arizona iced tea, Tucson tea. It uses distilled spirits, vodka and tequila, but the EV is low, so it drinks like a beer. In terms of alcohol content, it’s four and a half percent. So we have the vodka and the tequila, and then it’s lightly sweetened with agave. Organic blue agave kind of represents the sweetener of our region. And even though it’s just a touch of it, I wanted to keep the sweetness low. It’s less than a gram per 16 ounce. And then we blend hibiscus tea as well.


Which is also known as Jamaica. But we use dried hibiscus flowers to make the tea to brew and blend in with our black tea. So kind of bringing in that tequila, agave and hibiscus to round out those regional flavors with citrus black tea and vodka, those sort of classic beverages that people know about.

Wow. Very cool. I did not realize all of the intentionality that went into it. I don’t know, I just assumed it was like an iced tea that you spiked with alcohol. I don’t know how these things work, but this took like, a lot of time, I would imagine, to create this recipe.

It took me a lot of time. I was pretty comfortable making cocktails, making large scale bats cocktails. I got to test that prior to sort of launching this in ways like big events like the bow tie block party or anything at playground. We could kind of do cocktails on a large scale, but it took me a lot of time to learn how to make that shelf stable, how to turn ingredients that I know into ingredients that will last in a can. And I didn’t know anything about that. I started experimenting in my kitchen with glass bottles and corking fresh ingredients, and then three days later, quarks would be popping and glass would be breaking. I started quickly to realize that I didn’t know what I was doing. So it took me a really long time to learn and understand how I can keep the ingredients, how to kind of put those things together or use ingredients that I know how to pronounce. I didn’t want to use any fillers or stabilizers, and I wanted to figure out which ingredients can go together and be shelf


Okay. That then goes into the care, goes into how it’s blended in a way that really seems sensitive for people that have a variety of dietary restrictions or allergies.

Yeah. I also wanted to create something that could just make it easier for a larger group of people to drink without having to worry about it. So keeping the sweetener or the glycemic index on the sugar low and keeping it gluten free, it already includes more people than sharing a beer can. Keeping the ABV low includes more people than sharing a cocktail can. So I just kind of wanted to reach a broader group and have it be easy.

Okay. Wow. This is much more philosophical than I think a lot of people would imagine when they just look at an alcoholic beverage available. Where do we get these? Are they in stores? You mentioned they’re on draft and in cans.

We just ordered our cans after we recently received our federal label approval, so hopefully we’ll be in retail stores by April. We are currently in around 20 bars and restaurants around town. Five or six of them are accessible by streetcar.

Yeah, give us a couple of those.

We have the Monica John Henry. We have the RBAR. Rialto Theater and 191 Tool.

And so we just go in and ask for a Ray Rays, and they’ll know what we’re talking about.

Or it’s an orange tea raise. It’s the wood handle with the green writing on draft.

All right. And where did this name come from?

My dad and I used to brainstorm about names. It’s a very interesting process. And my family, it’s a term of endearment for me. I’m Ray or Ray Ray that my immediate family uses. But also over the years, as hospitality workers, we tend to spend more time with our work family than even our own family. So my work family also called me Ray Ray, so my dad named it that because he felt like I put so much of my own thought and self and intention and all that into this, so he really thought I should call it Ray Rays. I agreed.

It sounds like the perfect name. Ray ray Sonoran. T coming to shelves somewhere near you in April ish and available some of these spots you mentioned. Now, how do people stay in touch with you, follow up if they want to reach out and do an event with you through cocktail lab. What’s, all your social media and stuff?

Yeah, my website,, will have all the bars and restaurants that carry our product as well as contact information if you need consulting services or you’d like a sample for your bar. Instagram has all of our latest goings on at Ray Ray Sonoran that’s linked to our Facebook.

Okay. And if people want to reach out to you to do something that would go through your website is probably the best way.


All right. Well, it is a new year. We have all kinds of exciting things ahead of us, and I think my retroactive new year’s resolution is going to be to make sure I get out and try a Ray race and r and T here in the very near future.

All right.

Thank you, Rachel. This has been absolute pleasure. I appreciate everything that has happened in your life that has brought you to this point. And I think I’m excited because this is one of those interviews that I’m going to be able to talk about in five years and say, I interviewed her way back when. And now that Ray Ray has this entire suite of products sold across the globe, we can find out how it got its start here by listening to our little show in downtown Tucson.


All right, so, once again, thanks for your time, and I look forward to tasting the products.

Thank you.

That has been Rachel diequisto of the fabulous beverage called Ray Ray’s Sonoran spirit tea. Looking forward to seeing other creations that may come out of her mind in her kitchen. My name is Tom Heath, and you are listening to life along the streetcar in downtown radio 99.1 FM and available for streaming on downtown

You’re listening to Ktdt, Tucson, Arizona, 99.1 FM, downtown radio. I’m brother Mark, host of a show called radio Club Crawl that airs every Tuesday at 03:00 p.m.. We try to focus on most of the bands that are coming through Tucson, and we give you a tasty taste of their music. You want to check out what’s happening around Tucson, check out radio Club crawl Tuesday’s, 03:00 p.m., right here on Ktdt, Tucson, Arizona, 99.1 FM, downtown radio.

Thank you very much. Enjoy your evening. Bye bye. You can learn all about radio Club crawl, all the other fabulous shows that our volunteer DJs put on by heading over to Sunday is kind of a fun day with different types of music where we’re kicked off every Sunday by Mr. Nature and little leaf radio. And I like to take my dog for a walk. He’s on at seven. So we put the leash on, we head out and we do what we call Mr. Nature’s walk. And I dare you to listen to Mr. Nature’s show and not leave with just this overwhelming sense of positivity. He does a fantastic job. It’s family friendly, appeals to everyone, including my dog, Archie. Also, during the weekend we’ve got our Rock mix and again, talk about it many times. This is a volunteer run station, so your support is very helpful and quite honestly, it’s required for us to continue. So if you have not been a donor, please head over to, maybe hit the donate button and give us a one time or an ongoing donation.

And if you are one of our underwriters and you are one of our donors, thank you. Thank you. As we roll into 2023, we know there’s going to be some challenges ahead. We don’t know what they are yet. That’s always the exciting thing. And having a little bit of support within the community makes overcoming any of those challenges and obstacles much more comfortable and easy to do. So head over to, check out all of our shows. You’re going to find something that you like. You’re going to find something you don’t know them and encourage you to listen a few times to a show that you’re not familiar with. And my guess is you’re going to learn something and probably end up with a new favorite radio show here in Tucson, or guests around the globe, depending where you’re listening. I know some of our shows get fan mail from all over the country. I don’t. So if you’re listening in different parts of the world about this microcosm of Tucson, that is the Life Along the Streetcar, hit

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That would be cool. And that doesn’t count. Like, if my mom’s traveling, that doesn’t count. It’s it’s actual listeners. Hey, next week’s show is is going to be a lot of fun. Just like today, we had Rachel Diacisto talking about a new product that came out of her mind and her experience and everything sort of came together to create this new experience that we’re all going to benefit from. Next week’s show is a very similar concept, not cocktail related, but musically related. There’s an artist, his name is Brian Laidlaw, and a few years ago he started a nonprofit called Unrestricted Interest, and it offers poetry, songwriting skills, and mentorship. Creates a mentorship program for neurodivergent artists. And he explains what a Neuro divergent artist is on next week’s show and also how his new album is doing called Silently Loud, which features songs from non speaking autistic poets, two of which are here in Tucson. And next week at the Poetry Center, brian is going to be in town performing

some of those songs from his album silently Loud. His local poets and songwriters will be there to answer any questions. So next week we have Brian on the show and we also have Tyler Meyer who was the poetry Center’s executive director. So that’s going to be another interesting show and that’s going to lead to a couple of future subjects as well because they’re doing some amazing things. And I got to record that interview already and it was just incredibly intrigued by the work that’s being done. Really looking forward to that. But if there’s something we should be talking about that you are familiar with, let us know. Instagram. Facebook. Email. Contact us on our web page. Tell us. That’s how this show continues to grow. It’s by suggestions from you. There’s a tremendous amount of topics that we have not broached and talked about yet on the show, mainly because we don’t know about them. So tell us, you’re in the know, I mean, you’re listening to this show, you’re cool. So tell us the things

that you cool people know and will make the rest of us cool as well. Well, we are in the midst of the Tucson Jazz Festival. Had Chris Dodge on last week. You can check out that interview on our website if you want to know more about all the happenings. But I can tell you today, the Pink Martini is playing at the Linda Ronstadt Music Hall in just a couple of hours here. So we’re going to leave you with a little bit of music that kind of ties in with the Jazz festival and our Ray raised sonor and spirit tea founder Rachel Diequesto from 2007 on an album called hey Eugene. This is Pink martini. And it’s tea for two. Or perhaps it’s Ray Ray snore and Tea for two. I hope you have a great week and tune in next Sunday for more life along the streetcar?