“Eat your veggies” takes on a whole new meaning when the clock strikes five. That’s the witching hour for cocktails, a time when a post-work boost of energy, is imperative and the desire to unwind and enjoy a spirited drink peaks. Melding these two competing inclinations are new beverages at restaurants around the country, where bartenders and mixologists are crafting energizing beverages from ingredients that soothe a weary, work-worn soul yet restore the beat to your feet. Veggies, fruits, and other curative ingredients add verve to an ever-evolving cocktail scene.
Jon Augustin, beverage director for True Food Kitchen knows a thing or two about nutrient-rich ingredients. His drinks menus reflect the restaurants’ health-driven, seasonal ethos and incorporate current flavor trends into cocktails. Coconut water, pineapple, and blueberries make regular appearances for their abilities to hydrate and help with muscle recovery, “but,” says Augustin, “most of our guests tend to look for items like cucumber, celery, and tomato.” He steers away from added sugar, preferring starchier fruits and vegetables, like carrots that naturally sweeten a cocktail. Augustin is seeing more requests than ever for turmeric and ginger — could a turmeric-ginger piña colada be the hot cocktail for spring? Until it is, these healing cocktails are at their seasonal pinnacle. Get ‘em before it’s too late.
24 Carrot Magic, Faith & Flower, Los Angeles, California
Good-for-you ingredient: Carrots
Sharing a name with the antioxidant beta-carotene that gives them a brilliant orange hue, carrots are juicing superstars. Director of bar programs Ryan Wainwright and Faith & Flower’s lead bartender Darwin Pornel crafted an elixir designed to highlight the carrot’s sweetness but added a seasonal twist to this perennial favorite veg. Paired with the dark fruity notes of Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva rum and bold spiciness of Geijer Glogg, the drink’s edgy character comes from the Fernet’s bitterness and bright splashes of ginger and lime juices. Carrot is the drink’s magic touch, permitting the big-shouldered “players” to shine as individuals while giving the drink a soft landing on the palate. Make a reservation at Faith & Flower.
Apple Orchard Sour, True Food Kitchen, Atlanta (+ multiple locations)
Good-for-you ingredient: Apples
All True Food Kitchen recipes adhere to the principles of True Food Kitchen’s co-founder, Dr. Andrew Weil and his well-regarded anti-inflammatory diet principles. With the good doctor’s methods of selecting and preparing ingredients at the forefront of consideration, beverage director Jon Augustin considers the season when designing a new cocktail, as well as an ingredient’s anti-inflammatory properties. His drinks are all designed for the “wellness aware” and follow Dr. Andrew Weil’s general principles of wellness. The Apple Orchard Sour deftly balances freshly muddled pear and apple juiced right behind the bar with zingy lemon zest. The combo is a quaffable abundance of flavonoids and carotenoids, softened with mulled brandy. The freshly ground cinnamon topper is the anti-inflammatory icing on the cake. Make a reservation at True Food Kitchen.
Chicken Soup Hot Toddy, JIMMY at the James, New York, New York
Good-for-you ingredient: Chicken soup
If the sweeping city views from the 14-foot windows of this 18th-floor establishment are not enough to cure what ails you, JIMMY at the James co-owner and mixologist Johnny Swet knows what will: chicken soup and a shot of gin. That’s the not-so secret, one-two punch to his Chicken Soup Hot Toddy. Gin, used for centuries as an herbal medicine, meets its match in broth made from chicken bones. With a global reputation as a restorative beverage, cure-all, and medicine without the medicine, chicken soup takes the win as a folkloric (and M.D.-certified) icon of wellness. Swet even tosses in housemade celery bitters and lemon juice to make this drink irresistible to those with even the slightest tickle at the back of the throat. “With this drink, you can stay social all winter,” joked Swet. Make a reservation at JIMMY at the James.
Monkey Flip, Salt House, San Francisco, California
Good-for-you ingredient: Egg
Post-workout or post-work, nothing nourishes the body quite as well as a plate or eggs and a side of fresh fruit. Make that a whole raw egg whipped into a frenzy with charred banana into something that resembles an egg cream topped with toasted sesame dust and you start to get the drift of the Monkey Flip. Salt House’s bar manager Gabe Cothes had a blast building this anytime cocktail, throwing in some Fernet Branca as a balm to soothe irritated bellies. And the Gosling’s Black Seal rum? “That is strictly for balance and a little peace of mind. ‘Ahhh, everything is okay,’” said Cothes. Make a reservation at Salt House.
Chica Bonita, Libre, Las Vegas, Nevada
Good-for-you ingredient: Aloe vera
Aloe vera is not known for its naturally delicious flavor. Most people know it as a bitter spoonful to treat upset stomach, to slather on sunburned skin, or as a pick-me-up when feeling sluggish. The team at Libre Mexican Cantina inside the Red Rock Resort and Casino in arid Vegas were determined to innovate a hydrating elixir that challenged aloe vera’s rather prickly reputation. And, voilà (or, shall we say mira?) — the Chica Bonita. Loaded with vitamins and antioxidants, aloe vera’s bitter meets its match in the lip-puckering sour hibiscus-cranberry cordial with orange bitters that, somehow, layer bitter on sour on bitter to create a beverage that is marvelously refreshing and hydrating, and surprisingly delicious. Maybe this one time, what happens in Vegas won’t stay in Vegas. Make a reservation at Libre.
Chaturanga Fizz, SoBou, New Orleans, Louisiana
Good-for-you ingredient: Jasmine tea
Named for an Ashtanga yoga pose, the Chaturanga Fizz is the work of SoBou bar chef Laura Bellucci. Inspired by a yoga class held in the courtyard of SoBou, Bellucci sought to craft a cocktail that quiets the mind as effectively as the calming, stress-relieving pose. Built around flavors associated with healthy produce, like cucumber and celery, the Chaturanga Fizz is muted with honey and enlivened with the Brazilian cane sugar spirit, cachaça. Bellucci tops it all off with cold-brewed jasmine tea passed through a soda charger to bring a delicate carbonation and fizzy lift to the drink. Like the tea quietly sipped after class before the return to reality, this cocktail takes tea to a new, improved place. Make a reservation at SoBu.
Camote, La Mar Cebicheria Peruana, San Francisco, California
Good-for-you ingredient: Sweet potato
Camote, or sweet potato in Spanish, aptly describes this all potato, all the time cocktail. Native to the tropical region of the Americas and loaded with vitamins and trace minerals, sweet potato becomes something positively regal in the Camote cocktail. Mixologists at La Mar Cebicheria Peruana infused this humble member of the morning glory family into flavorful ice. Subsequently swirled with sweet potato vodka and punched up with Allspice Dram, pineapple, and lime, the drink exhibits layers of orange on orange, counterbalanced with a dash of green in the cilantro garnish. Slightly sweet and supremely creamy, the flavor is reminiscent of a classic Latin American pastry: empanadas de camote. Make a reservation at La Mar Cebicheria Peruana.
The Rabbit Hole, The County Bench Kitchen & Bar, Santa Rosa, California
Good for you ingredient: Carrots
Fresh and local everything is de rigueur in Sonoma County, but if fresh-squeezed carrot juice is your thing, it just got a little bit fresher. At recently opened The County Bench Kitchen & Bar, The Rabbit Hole cocktail makes downing that daily dose of juice just a little more fun. Spiked with yellow Chartreuse and gin and blended with an addictive cinnamon and star anise syrup, The Rabbit Hole is a vivid orange and as bold on the nose as it is on the palate. If you want to ditch your reading glasses, this fragrant number just might get you back to 20/20 — or maybe the opposite. Make a reservation at The County Bench Kitchen & Bar.
Christina Mueller is a San Francisco-based writer, epicurean adventurer, and culinary sleuth. Find her at http://christinamueller.com and follow her on Instagram @EatDrinkThink and Twitter @EatDrinkThink.
Photo credits: All photos courtesy of restaurants featured; @ThreadSalt (JIMMY); Andrew Freeman and Co. (Salt House); Thomas Medl (La Mar Cebicheriea Peruana).