Healthier cocktails are on the rise as the world of wellness moves into bars and liquor cabinets, finds Fiona Ralph.
Wholesome eating and drinking – and by drinking we mean cold-pressed juices, turmeric lattes and digestive tonics – are top of mind for many these days, but alcoholic indulgences have been late to the party. Thankfully, healthier cocktail options have entered the wellness sphere and drinkers can now choose from organic spirits, kombucha cocktails and mixers such as green tea, cleansing juice and coconut water.
Wholefood advocates Melissa and Jasmine Hemsley have long sung the praises of kombucha cocktails. In their cookbooks The Art of Eating Well and Good + Simple, the sisters mix vodka with sparkling water, raw honey, fresh fruit and coconut water to ensure drinks are free of refined sugar and contain hydrating ingredients.
Tanya’s Cafe, a raw food restaurant in London, boasts a “superfood cocktail bar”, with options including the Margarita-esque Matcharita, a blend of mezcal, cachaça and matcha (green tea powder). New York’s The Butcher’s Daughter has just opened a new outlet serving cold-pressed cocktails, and in the Hamptons, Clean Drinking, a range of cold-pressed juices designed to mix with spirits was launched last year. Gratitude, a chain of organic, plant-based restaurants in California, serves cocktails using local produce, shrubs and tinctures.
In New Zealand, Stolen recommends the Smoke and Coco, a pairing of its Smoked Rum with coconut water, and Waiwera and Puhoi Organic Distillery both offer organic spirits.
In Auckland’s Parnell, new restaurant Pasture focuses on organic and foraged ingredients and serves aperitifs made with its handmade preserves, wines and vinegars. The restaurant’s Elderflower Spritz combines Black Robin gin and Antipodes sparkling water with its sparkling elderflower wine and vinegar. “We stay away from sugar as much as we can,” says Laura Verner, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Ed.
Pocket Bar & Kitchen in Auckland’s Grey Lynn pairs seasonal fruit reductions with sparkling water and spirits. Cocktails include the O Canada made with New Zealand apples, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, coriander and whisky.
Co-owner Damien McDowell says: “We wanted to provide a healthier cocktail option. We often found that at other bars you were left with a sickly sweet taste after a couple of cocktails. With our drinks, you can have a good time, try a few different cocktails and leave feeling good.”
Tea is taking off too. Fairtrade producers Fine and Dandy partnered with Auckland bar Peach Pit this year to offer a tequila and green tea cocktail. The bar changes its menu regularly and often teams spirits with seasonal fruit juices and iced teas. The newly opened Jervois Rd Wine Bar & Kitchen in Auckland’s Ponsonby also serves tea-infused cocktails alongside organic and biodynamic wines.
Botanical tea brand Forage + Bloom lists alcohol pairings on its packets and features cocktail recipes on its website. As well as blending teas, Hannah McMenamin is a naturopath and herbalist who manages The Tonic Room in Kingsland, Auckland. The former bartender started making tea-based cocktails as she didn’t like sugary mixers.
Combining iced tea with soda water is “a great way to add a new element to a cocktail without having added sugar,” she explains. She has also crafted cocktails for events. Recipes include a healthier take on the mojito that incorporates green tea, lemon verbena, vodka, soda, lemon, mint and cucumber. McMenamin points to the Sydney-based sisters behind Teatini, a blog showcasing cocktails made with Forage + Bloom and other artisanal teas.
Matthew Yardley has been crafting healthier cocktails at Chow in Wellington for a number of years. He advocates “nice, fun and flavoursome drinks that won’t fill you up too much”. Each cocktail at the Asian-fusion restaurant contains fewer than 150 calories and many incorporate fruit, herbs, coconut water and nut milks. Options include the Feng Shui Lemonade, made with gin, blackberries, lemon juice and sparkling water and the non-alcoholic Lucky Cat Cooler, a mix of cucumber, watermelon and sparkling water.
Spiced rum daiquiri
Created by Teatini with Forage + Bloom tea
- 60ml Forage + Bloom Repose tea (brew 3 tsp / 1 cup at 100°C for 3 mins, allow to cool)
- 45ml spiced rum
- 15ml fresh lemon or lime juice
- 15ml lemon thyme simple syrup (1 part raw sugar to 1 part water boiled with 3-4 sprigs lemon thyme. Let steep 15 minutes)
How to make
Shake ingredients with ice and fine strain into a chilled coupe glass.
Created by Matthew Yardley of Chow
- 45ml Jameson Irish Whiskey
- 30ml lemon juice
- 10ml stevia syrup (1 part stevia to 2 parts water)
- spray of Absinthe
How to make
- Shake all ingredients, except Absinthe, over ice, then strain over fresh ice into a tumbler.
- Place star anise on top of the frothy head then spray with a touch of Absinthe from a small atomiser.