Cocktail concoctions that may have you drinking to your health

The trend toward alcoholic beverages that are mixed with organic, super-food or other "healthful" ingredients doesn't mean cocktails are now good for you.
(Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

Vodka infused with acai. Sangria loaded with Mediterranean blood orange and pomegranate. Cosmopolitans concocted with prickly pear cactus and aloe. Fresh juniper and lavender blended into organic gin made on a 70-acre biodynamic farm in Colorado.

Some of the alcoholic beverages hitting the market convey an aura of healthfulness not generally attributed to drinking alcohol, especially during the most socially active time of the year.

“Every other food group has been conquered by the organic movement, and [alcohol] has been the last holdout,” said Paul Abercrombie, author of “Organic, Shaken & Stirred: Hip Highballs, Modern Martinis, and Other Totally Green Cocktails.” “People have been worried about what’s on their plate for a long time, but nobody was thinking about what was in their glasses.”


That’s changing as liquor makers add a little nutrition to their tipple. Meantime, the drinkers are looking to cold-pressed juices and cleanse formulas to concoct over-21 drinks. Amber Blumer, founder of Skinny Lemon, which sells the Master Cleanse formula of lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne, says her product is being used as a vodka mix. The additional electrolytes and minerals in True Nopal’s cactus water have led the brand to devise Cosmopolitan cocktail recipes with its product. The extracts of African mango, pomegranate and the mushroom ganoderma in Nuvia’s instant coffee have led to it being mixed with Kahlua.

“A question I hear a lot is, ‘Can I incorporate a super-food into a cocktail?’” said registered dietitian Manuel Villacorta, author of the coming “Whole Body Reboot.” “Ironically, they want to know if drinking healthier can combat the effects of drinking.”

No one should confuse these cocktails with broccoli; they are not health foods.

“My concern is that these drinks can lead to a false sense of security,” said Dr. Nieca Goldberg, medical director of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. “Everybody’s trying to use the buzzwords of organic and natural, but they don’t really enter into the science of a hangover. Certain things can be helpful. Migraines can be precipitated by the sulfites in wine, so organic wine can be better for you.”

Which doesn’t mean people are not trying to up the real or imagined healthful quotient of their drinks.

“I was selling my Italian ice at a farmer’s market when people said they mixed it with liquor and didn’t get hangovers,” said Natalie Susi, a former teacher in San Diego. Now she sells Bare Organic Mixers — agave, lemon and lime, pomegranate and cranberry — for what she describes as “clean cocktails.”

There’s also Paleta Potables Holiday ‘Nog, with almonds, cashews, coconut and cardamom; add brandy or bourbon. Or Bon Affair, a sparkling wine with grape seed extract and electrolytes, and half the calories of wine.


Moderation, however, is everything — even if toasting 2015 involves a small-batch, handcrafted and biodynamically cultivated cocktail.

“If you’re going to have 19 organic daiquiris, it’s not going to be any better for you,” said Abercrombie. “But if it makes you feel better about the mastodon-sized hangover you’re going to have the next day, go for it.”

Whatever your poison, pace yourself and stay hydrated.

“Alcohol is still alcohol,” said Dr. Akikur Mohammad, adjunct professor at USC and the founder and medical director of the addiction treatment center Inspire in Malibu.


Cocktail options with more health-conscious ingredients

Preparing for a shaken or stirred New Year’s Eve? Here are some of the alternatives.

• Vodka alternative Veev is made with winter wheat from Idaho, Rocky Mountain water and Brazilian acai. It also sells VitaFrute, Veev mixed with organic coconut water, citrus and organic pineapple juice.

• A 70-acre farm in western Colorado’s North Fork Valley is where the CapRock line of gin, vodka and brandies is distilled without additives, oils, sugar or acids; Organic Peach Eau de Vie is made from the pulp of locally grown Rosa peaches, the gin from a blend of 12 fruits, flowers, seeds and spices.

• An alternative to a New Year’s Day Bloody Mary can be made with Tabanero Bloody Mary Mix. Antioxidant-rich chile peppers, including habanero and cayenne, are mixed with gluten-free Worcestershire sauce, carrots, onions, key lime, agave and fresh-pressed tomatoes.

• The premise behind Leaf Vodka is that the purer the water, the purer the drink. The vodka, made from Alaskan glacial or Rocky Mountain water, is at the heart of a cocktail created by New York mixologist Juyoung Kang that uses Leaf with lemon, vanilla, rosemary and sage and a dash of lavender bitters.

• Greenbar in downtown Los Angeles hosts tastings for its organic farm-to-glass cocktails: cardamom, clove and star anise are in its Tru Organic Gin, and organic oats, malt and spelt are in the white whiskey.

• Ingredients in Eppa’s SupraFruta Sangria include organic grapes, pomegranate, blueberry, acai and Mediterranean blood orange.

• Crop Harvest Earth Organic Vodka comes in flavors like Meyer Lemon, Cucumber and Tomato, and, for the holidays, Spiced Pumpkin. The organic grain is distilled on the plains of Minnesota, free of chemicals, pesticides and artificial fertilizers.

• Triple distilled and using 100% agave, the tequila Baron was founded by Jana Khaimoff when she was fighting cancer and keeping to a raw, organic diet.