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Featured, Food, Wellness

Clean up Your Cocktails: Tips for a Healthier Happy Hour

The farm-to-table movement of the last few years isn’t just about food. In keeping with the focus on wellness, healthy “clean” ingredients are sneaking into your cocktail tumbler, shaking up your dinner parties and adding a dash of holistic living to your happy hour. Health coaches Beth Ritter Nydick and Tara Roscioli penned the swanky, giftable coffee table book “Clean Cocktails: Righteous Recipes for the Modernist Mixologist,” a No. 1 release in the alcoholic spirits section of Amazon.

What Makes A Cocktail Healthy

“People are far more particular these days about what they consume, whether it’s grass-fed beef or vegan, paleo, gluten-free or dairy-free diets,” said Roscioli, who considers clean cocktails a natural progression of the trend toward ingredients as unprocessed as possible. And while many, including her clients, are health and/or weight conscious, she says, “They still like to enjoy a cocktail now and then without undoing their efforts.”

The cocktails in the book ditch the artificial flavors and refined sugars that can increase inflammation; the recipes don’t rely on artificial sweeteners nor are they limited to perfunctory “skinny” spirits such as basic vodka soda. “Clean cocktails are made with whole, unprocessed ingredients like fresh fruit juices and vegetable purees, fresh herbs, anti-inflammatory spices like cinnamon and cayenne, and gentle sweeteners like honey and pure maple syrup,” explained Roscioli. Agave nectar, although often a good option for diabetics, can be as highly processed as corn syrup, so it doesn’t necessarily fit the bill as “clean.”

Farmers Market Finds and Garden Herbs to Elevate Your Basics

“The key is in our flavor profiles like watermelon and mint, watermelon and jalapeno, basil and citrus, just to name a few,”said Roscioli, adding that your shopping list is really about creating whatever flavors you enjoy. A good beginning is to stock up on low-sugar spirits: vodka, tequila, gin or bourbon. “Skip the rosé and champagne which are loaded with sugar and almost guarantee a nasty hangover for most of us.”

Your bar cart will also benefit from medjool dates for a sweetener, fresh herbs such as rosemary and basil, and any citrus. Ginger aids digestion. Cilantro is good for detox and wellness-lover staples, like matcha tea, can make good mixers.

Here are a few recipes designed by the book’s authors to get you started:

Fresh BeGINings

  • 2 ounces gin
  • ¼ cup fresh pineapple chunks
  • ½ cup organic kale juice
  • 3 fresh basil leaves, chopped

Muddle all but one of the pineapple chunks and the basil leaves in a cocktail shaker until there are no large pieces remaining. Add kale juice, gin and ice. Shake for 10 seconds, strain into an ice-filled highball glass and garnish with remaining pineapple chunk.

Bourbon With Maple’d Rosemary

  • 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • Freshly squeezed juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 ½ ounces bourbon
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • Ice

Roll one of the rosemary sprigs between your hands to release its oils. Add it to a cocktail shaker, along with the lemon juice, bourbon, maple syrup and ice. Shake well.

Strain the contents of the shaker into a couppette or martini glass. Garnish with the remaining rosemary sprig and serve.

Berry Jamtini

  • 5 to 8 fresh mint leaves
  • ½ ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 ounces gin
  • ½ teaspoon organic unsweetened raspberry jam
  • Ice
  • Seltzer water
  • Mint leaf, for garnish

Muddle all but one of the mint leaves and the lime juice in a cocktail shaker. Add the gin, jam, and ice and shake for 10 seconds, until the jam is fully incorporated.

Strain the contents of the shaker into a chilled martini glass. Top off with seltzer, garnish with the remaining mint leaf and serve.

Minty Margarita

  • 1 ½ cups tequila
  • 4 ½ ounces lemon or lime juice
  • Large bunch mint leaves
  • 3 ounces honey syrup
  • 5-6 cups ice

Add all ingredients into a blender and mix until slushy.

Pour into ice-filled margarita glasses and garnish with mint.


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