Business Treaveler logo

Travel news, reviews and intel for high-flyers

On Thirst With Shay Mitchell, the Actor and Entrepreneur Drinks Around the World

Already busy with an acting career, a luggage brand and a tequila company, Mitchell is now launching a drinks-and-travel show on Max

Shay Mitchell / Photo: Courtesy of Greg Swales

On the first episode of the new Max show Thirst With Shay Mitchell, the actor, entrepreneur and host drinks a shot of alcohol infused with fish from Peru’s Lake Titicaca. “I know—I can’t believe I did, either,” Mitchell says as she recalls the exact taste of the hooch, which she characterizes as “bad sushi,” as it hit her palate. “Not every sip is a winner.”

Throughout the four-episode series, Mitchell explores “the world one drink at a time.” For the first season, she filmed throughout South America for just under four weeks, traversing Argentina, Colombia, Peru and Brazil. She samples unique ingredients and meets over a dozen experts, encountering the latest drink trends, best bars and 8,000 years of sipping history.

With guest Amelia in Cartagena, Colombia, on Thirst With Shay Mitchell / Photo: Courtesy of Flannery Underwood

Mitchell was inspired to create the show after she saw Down to Earth With Zac Efron in 2020 and discovered that an unscripted program about traveling to drink did not exist. “We did this because there wasn’t anything like it,” she says. “There are a million and one food shows but nothing on beverages, and they accompany every meal. The only thing that brings people together more than breaking bread is sharing a toast.”

Troian Bellisario, Lucy Hale, Ashley Benson and Shay Mitchell on Pretty Little Liars / Photo: Courtesy of ABC Family/Photofest

Thirst isn’t Mitchell’s first travel show or entrepreneurial effort. As she rose to fame on the cult television show Pretty Little Liars, in subsequent roles and as a producer (You, Dollface, Trese, The Cleaning Lady), endorsement deals began to pour in. Then Mitchell became an early adopter of social media with her own YouTube series, Shaycation, which documented her travel experiences. When Liars ended, Mitchell started Béis, a travel accessories and lifestyle brand. She followed that venture up with Onda, a ready-to-drink tequila seltzer.

Thirst is the next step,” says Mitchell, who has more than 56 million followers across her platforms. “This is perfect for me because I love to travel, and I love to drink, clearly,” she says. “But how can I entertain the viewers while giving them a takeaway? Being able to mix these things is quite a dream come true.” Many lessons are learned on the road—she misses buses, surfs, climbs Machu Picchu and discovers the drinks everyone is buzzing about—but at the end of the day, everyone sits down for a meal, sharing a toast and good conversation.

“That ritual is such a loving part of any culture,” she says. “It didn’t matter whether we were in a big or small town, and it didn’t have to be alcohol—it could be any beverage.”

With her beaming smile, Mitchell samples Incan libations in Peru and visits a mountain distillery 9,000 feet above sea level. She tastes espresso beer, ancient floral beverages and formerly illegal cocktails in Colombia. She encounters flaming drinks at Buenos Aires’ first tiki bar before an Argentine mixologist performs spirit magic. In Brazil, caipirinhas and cachaça shots evaporate into thin air prior to a lesson in chopping sugarcane in the Atlantic rainforest.

“A lot of drinks I tried weren’t my favorite, but they were all unique in their way, inspired by the plants, landscape and people. For example, the sugarcane spirit in Brazil differs from that in Peru,” Mitchell says. “One of my favorite things was this wine made from potatoes. It blew my mind. In Colombia, we had a drink called Mama Africa, sprayed in perfume to enhance a different sense, hitting my nose before my taste buds.”

Capitalizing on her reach, Thirst is like scrolling through Mitchell’s feed. Many experts who appear on the show came to her through social media. But the actress and mom of two who grew up in Canada says her parents planted the travel bug early, long before Instagram. “

They encouraged us to go to different places, learn about cultures, try different foods, meet many different people and learn about how expansive this world is,” she says. “Looking back, I appreciate that experience my parents gave my brother and me because you come back with a different perspective. You learn so much about other people and yourself when you travel. It has been my first love and it’s something I hope to experience with my kids.”

Béis’ collaboration with Lonely Ghost / Photo: Courtesy of Daniel Yoon

This wanderlust laid the groundwork for Mitchell to launch Béis in 2018 as founder and chief brand officer. The company sells luggage, work totes and accessories, among other travel must-haves, with an undeniable appeal to the digital-native and digital-nomad traveler. The label has surpassed $200 million in profitable gross revenue, more than 200-percent growth from the previous fiscal year.

The idea came from necessity. As Mitchell began shopping for her first luggage set, Béis appeared.

“When shopping, I couldn’t find anything that hit all the buckets. First, I wanted it to look good, be superclean and chic, with all the functions I needed. I loved hard-shell suitcases but wanted that expansion because I tend to be an overpacker. I also didn’t want these bags to break the bank and cost more than my flight. I couldn’t find all three of those things in any of the brands I looked at.”

Mitchell creates every Béis product in response to her own essential travel needs—even the name is derived from a favorite bag. “It is based on a bag that I had traveled with and loved for so long but it had seen its end. It was beige, hence Béis,” she says, adding that she thought the acute accent mark resembled a plane taking off. “I also thought people were going to ask or maybe mispronounce it, and then it would take a second for them to think, but then maybe they’ll remember it. It’s a conversation starter.”

The recent Béis collaboration with apparel company Lonely Ghost features red luggage, accessories and clothing with the catchphrase, “Text me when you land.” Certain pieces sold out in minutes.

“How many times have you said that?” she asks. The campaign was shot at the equally chic and red TWA Hotel at JFK.

“I love traveling more now than ever because I have all the gear, bags and travel accessories I could ever need,” she says. “I’ve always loved packing, those weeks leading up to a trip. We make bags for people on the go. The way I do that is by having that experience myself.”

When Mitchell travels, she always takes notes. “I wish we had this, or wouldn’t this be a great bag or accessory for this situation? I come back with so much information because I am also a consumer,” she says.

At the top of her list is the trolley pass-through—the handy pocket strap that ensures the bag doesn’t slide off the roller. She also loves the key leash, which solves the problem of finding keys when returning from a trip. The cushion handle on Béis carry-on bags makes long airport walks bearable. “Then, of course, the weight indicators on our suitcases have also saved me many times because I know if my bag is over 50 pounds before I get to the counter.” And yes, she always checks a bag.

With her Onda Blanco and Reposado tequilas / Photo: Courtesy of Flannery Underwood

As Béis grew, Mitchell tapped into another passion, sharing a toast, with the launch of ready-to-drink canned tequila seltzer Onda, recently expanding into spirits with the release of both Blanco and Reposado tequilas. “I was noticing a lot of seltzers on the market. And I would ask my friends who were drinking them what was in it. We found out it was malt. That didn’t work well with me. I felt very bloated after drinking it and looked at the ingredients. I wished something out there was cleaner, had less sugar and actual fruit juices, but there wasn’t, so again, I found that white space and the stars aligned.”

One thing she is never intimated by is not knowing how to do something. “I had no experience when it came to a tequila seltzer. I went along with it because I was curious to learn, similarly to Béis, and we’ve kept going,” she says.

“It’s really fascinating how tequila is made, and that sparked the idea for Thirst,” Mitchell recounts in her infectious tone, which makes you want to grab your passport and tag along on her next great adventure. With Thirst, she hopes season one is only the beginning.

“I would love to go more places, meet more people and, obviously, try more drinks. I never start something with the finish line in my peripheral. I enjoy the process and the journey way more than the destination.”

Shay’s Travel Tips

  • “I don’t pack the day of the trip. That would give me intense anxiety. I start packing a week out. I toss things in there as the week unfolds.”
  • In my carry-on, I have my in-flight essentials, my headphones, my debloating teas that I drink when I land.”
  • “I don’t like to turn on Wi-Fi on the plane. That’s my time when I disconnect. I read a book or watch something. It is forced isolation.”
  • “I use packing cubes. I have my swimsuits in one, my socks and my workout clothes in another. It is so much easier to pull it out. We just came out with these compression ones. If you don’t need as much space you can shrink it down.”