Bartenders are now turning out cocktails based on, yes, vegetables
At places like Colonie and Gran Electrica in Brooklyn and The Wayland in Manhattan you can get drinks made with cucumber, carrots, kale and peas
It’s easy to eat your veggies when they come with a buzz.
Seasonally-minded mixologists are increasingly using produce like kale, peas, carrots and cucumbers, adding them to vodka, tequila and rum.
Not only do these vegetables offer interesting flavor combinations, but some bartenders believe these juiced-up cocktails might actually be… healthy?
Seasonal restaurant Colonie in Brooklyn Heights serves up a $12 Cool Hand Cuke cocktail, made of fresh-squeezed cucumber juice, organic cucumber vodka, and mint syrup.
Colonie owner and mixologist Tamer Hamawi says he was “particularly interested in working with vegetables” for their cocktail menu, since unlike fruit, they were rarely used in mixed drinks.
“It’s also about making drinks somewhat nutritious, as well,” Hamawi says. “You can’t deny that you’re getting some nutrients in there, even though it’s combined with alcohol. You’re still going to get those nutrients into your body.”
Other bars like to play doctor with their concoctions. Chinatown cocktail bar Apotheke calls their drinks “prescriptions” and mixes liquor with organic produce from local greenmarkets — or grown on their rooftop garden. One standout “prescription” is the Edamame and Shiso, made with vodka, edamame puree, muddled cucumber, shiso (an Asian herb) leaf, shaved ginger, and a “wasabi-pink Himalayan salt rim.”
If you’re hoping to sharpen your vision, Gran Electrica, a Mexican restaurant in DUMBO that has the same owners as Colonie, makes a seasonal orange-colored cocktail called the Margarita 20/20. It mixes carrot juice with blanco tequila, among other things.
And why bother choking down a wheatgrass shot when you could throw back a wheatgrass vodka cocktail at Candle 79 on the upper East Side?
The Wayland in the East Village makes the Garden Variety — a mean, bright-green margarita with kale juice. The drink started out as a health remedy for owner Jason Mendenhall, who also creates the cocktails. “Whenever I’d feel a little ill, I would drink kale juice, ginger juice, a little bit of cold-pressed green tea, agave nectar and lemon,” he says.
One day when friends were over, inspiration struck, tequila was added, and the kale-juice margarita was born. It’s one of the most popular drinks on their menu, which rotates out cocktails every 14 days — except for the Garden Variety.
Mendenhall credits its popularity to the flavor combination. And don’t worry if you don’t like kale. “Ginger is the most pronounced flavor in the drink,” he says.
While Mendenhall wouldn’t go so far to call his concoction healthy, “It almost tricks you into thinking you’re doing something healthy,” he says. “It has very healthy ingredients.” For what it’s worth, Mendenhall says he’s drank six of them in an evening without getting a hangover.
But don’t bank on getting your vitamins at the bar, warns Maria Bella, a registered dietitian with Top Balance Nutrition.
“Theoretically, you could” get the health benefits of the vegetables’ nutrients from these cocktails, she says. However, “It really depends on the rest of the ingredients you’re getting in that drink.”
The calories from the liquor plus the simple syrups many mixed drinks include overrides the benefits of the veggie juice, according to Bella.
“I would steer my clients towards a glass of wine,” she says.
Or they could try the Spring Pea Mojito from upper East Side restaurant Rouge Tomate.
“We always try to find cocktails that are lower in added sugar and that are seasonal,” says Pascaline Lepeltier, the sommelier there. “We really try to use only the natural sweetness from the ingredients.”
Instead of using the simple syrup agave as a sweetener, Lepelteir uses a biodynamic elderflower syrup made in Austria, which has no additives. The Spring Pea Mojito sprang onto the menu in June and will be taken off around the last weekend in August, as the sweet vegetable goes out of season.
So hurry and drink up — to your health.
-additional reporting by Jonathan Forani
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