Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Making Healthier Cocktails

Cucumbers Pine Needles and Thyme
          “Healthyish cocktails appeal to everyone,” says Danny Kuehner, bar manager at Madison On
Park restaurant in San Diego. Stashed behind the bar are such wellness ingredients as alkaline water, turmeric, matcha, beets, carrots, aloe vera, nopales, seaweed, cannabidiol oil and activated charcoal. “People want to feel good, not only about what they are eating, but what they are drinking.”  Cocktails as healthful? Sounds like a contradiction. But consider history: Apothecaries originally compounded alcohol into healthful tinctures, elixirs and tonics.  And compared to drinks in the 1980s that used artificially flavored mixers with way too much sweetener, today’s fresh-ingredient cocktails are natural and refreshing. Plus, the current proliferation of low-ABV creations offers more wholesome quaffs.

     Bartenders often look to the kitchen for inspiration, which is where the health-food angle fits. When writing menus, chefs today focus on organic and sustainable ingredients, preferably locally sourced. And of course, drink lists that call out the latest superfood or unusual, arcane ingredients attract the attention of curious consumers thirsting for the new and novel.  “Bartenders love stealing ideas and ingredients from kitchens, and if the kitchen trends or what people are asking for gears itself towards health foods, then that’s how we’re going to lean into it,” says Jenn Harvey, bar manager at Temple Bar in Cambridge, MA. Items borrowed from health food for cocktails include carrot juice, chia seeds, cacao nibs and turmeric.

     Mixologists are ranging far and wide to unearth therapeutic ingredients. “If you think about the historical aspect of spirits as curatives, used in the apothecary style, I don’t think cocktails borrowing inspiration from health foods is a trend, but rather a modernized form of expressing creativity,” says Jenn Grossbard, bar manager and resident forager for The Drawing Board in Petaluma, CA., where you can a virtual pharmacy of holistic ingredients, including activated charcoal, bee pollen, ginger/turmeric honey, rosehip and hawthorn tonic, alkaline water and adaptogenic herbs such as eleuthero, fo-ti, astragalus and tulsi.  The aptly named Prescription cocktail features healthful bee pollen and ginger/turmeric-infused honey, along with Dewar’s Scotch, lemon juice and locally produced Amaro Bilaro and Fresno chilies.

     Using healthful, plant-based ingredients in cocktails can boost both flavors and sales, says Ryan Nolen, bar manager at Pitchfork Pretty Restaurant & Bar in Austin, TX. “Health-centric food and beverage consumption is mainstream: It has permeated pop culture. I believe it is here to stay and has appeal to some degree across all demographics.”  The restaurant features Texas Hill Country cuisine and the bar follows suit. Local carrots, butternut squash, tomatillos, avocado seed, avocado leaf, avocado flower honey, poppy seeds and fermented peach pits all appear in cocktails, which are priced from $10 to $12.   Examples include the A Drink Has No Name, featuring theobromine-rich yaupon tea, smoked ginger honey, clove, mint, lemon, bourbon and rum, with a Sasquash pictured atop.

Creating drinks with exotic components can be expensive, however. “Sometimes, these super-healthy ingredients can cost a lot of money,” says Harvey. And if the cocktails don’t sell, spoilage can be a problem.

     At The Drawing Board, they will “personally forage for many of the herbs or grow them in someone’s garden.” She also works with local purveyors for specialized ingredients, such as bee pollen or organic dried herbs.  Pitchfork Pretty sources from local farms that practice sustainable farming techniques and grow plants in ideal soil compositions, says Nolen. “We try to do this as far as it is cost-effective.”   “Using veggies and herbs gives the cocktail a fresh and herbaceous aspect that can’t be found in a bottle,” but “the challenge is sourcing the freshest possible ingredients. Your cocktail is only as strong as its weakest ingredient.” 

     This is only the tip of the iceberg, read more at http://beveragedynamics.com/2018/05/02/how-to-make-healthier-cocktails/