“People are generally more health-conscious these days,” Jason J. Mendenhall, owner and operator of such NYC bars as The Wild Son, The Lost Lady, and The Wayland, says. “Being able to have a cocktail with fresh and mindful ingredients was not always easy to come by. Now we are seeing a big upswing in the use of superfoods in cocktail bars.”
Beverage programs across the country are responding to the demand for superfoods by crafting antioxidant-rich, delicious drinks for health-minded consumers. From kale Margaritas to beet-stained Mai Tais, creative bartenders are taking health into their own hands.
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“I do think some of these superfoods lend themselves to interesting flavor profiles within a cocktail,” Mendenhall says. We are inclined to agree. Here are six superfoods embraced by cocktail bars nationwide.
Turmeric, an intensely hued yellow spice, has found its way into cocktails. From the Ankara cocktail at Shuka in New York City, to the Fiery Lion at Vinaigrette in Austin, to the Toro y Gallo at Martina in Minneapolis, turmeric is suddenly everywhere.
The Golden Spike, a neo-Tiki-style drink at Los Angeles’s Westbound, is made with golden milk, an ancient Ayurvedic beverage with anti-inflammatory properties. Coconut milk adds a tropical tone, and cardamom-scented Krogstad Aquavit enhances the spice. Bar manager Rhachel Shaw adds a black pepper garnish, “which helps your body process the turmeric better and ties the sweet and savory together,” she says.
This earthy and deeply pigmented root veggie is reincarnated as an Old-Fashioned (rye, beets, and bitters) at vegetable-forward restaurant Daisies in Chicago, and brightens the cheekily named “Beet’lejuice” gin cocktail at Doc B’s in Austin.
At Sunday In Brooklyn, a popular brunch spot in Williamsburg, the Purple Rain cocktail features bourbon, fino sherry, blueberries, black walnut, beet juice, lemon, and walnut bitters. “Beet juice turned out to be the necessary glue for this tipple, giving a vegetal undertone to flavors that would otherwise be too sweet, while providing a definitive purple color to the cocktail’s namesake,” Brian Evans, head bartender at Sunday in Brooklyn, says.
Matcha madness has struck, infiltrating everything from ice cream, to crepes, to oatmeal, and the list goes on. This green tea powder, high in antioxidants and known for providing sustained energy, headlines the Matcha Mule, a spin on a Moscow Mule, from ROKU in West Hollywood. Dirty Habit in D.C. serves a twist on a Pisco Sour known as the Matcha Picchu (Pisco, guava purée, velvet falernum, lime juice, egg white, and matcha powder).
At Tonchin in New York City, mixologist Toshifumi Mori reached for matcha to create a drink that combines Japanese flavors with Manhattan style. The alluring Smoked Matcha cocktail features Helix vodka, Pedro Ximenez sherry, matcha, vanilla, matcha ice cream, whipped cream, and green tea smoke.
The massively popular, nutrient-rich fiber powerhouse is the secret ingredient to healthful Margaritas. It lends herbaceous flavors to the Garden Variety Margarita at The Wild Son in New York City. There, it’s combined with tequila, ginger, lime juice, agave, and a chili salt rim. The Green Margarita at Troutbeck, in upstate New York, mixes Casamigos tequila with Troutbeck’s own green juice made with kale, fennel, Swiss chard, and other greens, plus fresh lime and agave.
Want to detoxify while you drink? Activated charcoal cocktails have arrived. It darkens the Batman at JIMMY at The James in New York City, made with Blackwell Rum, activated charcoal, pineapple juice, lime juice, agave, and mint. You’ll also find it in the Black Magic Mimosa at San Diego’s Madison on Park.
This jewel-toned fruit, high in antioxidants and vitamins, is a natural fit for cocktails. At Empellón Taqueria in Manhattan, beverage director Noah Small mixes La Venenosa Raicilla (an agave spirit produced in Jalisco), with Mr. Black’s Cold Brew liqueur and pomegranate juice to produce his Murder by Numbers drink.
Don’t Take Me for Pomegranate from Roux in Tampa is a New Orleans-inspired drink made with Calvados, and the A-710 Airspeed from Maverick Texas Brasserie in San Antonio features vanilla and citrus flavors combined with vodka and cracked black pepper.