Welcome to Distilled, InsideHook’s deep dive into the spirits world. Bottoms up.
Our goal for the New Year was a simple one: Be healthier in 2016. … without depriving ourselves of alcohol.
Bully for us, then, when a slew of “Drinking is healthy!” articles followed soon thereafter.
“Drinking is healthy, gives you a higher life expectancy!” said Pacific Standard. “People who drink wine, liquor or beer are less prone to heart failure and heart attacks,” posited Science Daily. Even medical journal Vaccine featured a study that said people who drink moderately have better immune responses than those who abstain.
Recently, British author Tony Edwards released The Good News on Booze, a drinks tome that focuses on “alcohol’s overplayed perils and its underplayed benefits” and garnered praise from Britain’s leading cancer specialist (note: Edwards politely refused an interview request, but did say he was working on a new version of the book for the U.S. market).
For our own research, we went to Despina Hyde, an RD, MS and diabetes educator in the Weight Management Program at NYU Langone. She offered a more sobering take.
“Alcohol is not an essential nutrient, meaning we don’t necessarily ‘need’ it,” she says. “However, if adding one drink per day for women and one or two drinks max for men, and fitting that drink into your overall ‘caloric’ budget, you can include alcohol in your life and stay healthy.”
Hyde suggests sticking to cocktails low in sugar and being wary of ingredients that tout unproven health benefits — say, for instance, green tea, which theoretically aids in weight loss and reduces cancer risk. “Research regarding green tea benefits is variable. You may need a lot of it to achieve even the smallest benefit. Chances are, the amount added to a cocktail won’t be very beneficial.”
FIVE HEALTHY COCKTAILS, AND WHERE TO FIND THEM
Whether boozing is “beneficial” or not, healthy options at cocktail dens are now a thing. At E.P. & L.P., a “modern Asian Eating House” and rooftop in Los Angeles, drinksman Alex Straus offers up more than two dozen cocktails that purposely use ingredients that “extend life,” such as tamarind, cardamom and teas from all over Asia.
Another L.A. joint, Ray’s and Stark Bar, features drinks like The Rothko, in which mixologist Evan Charest combines Scotch and mezcal with fresh-pressed carrot juice to create a “beta carotene-rich cocktail” (beta carotene is an antioxidant and a great source of vitamin A).
Johnny Swet, a new favorite mixologist of ours at The Rickey in New York, strives for a healthy balance in most of his cocktails. "I think that if you can add something into a cocktail that is pure, clean and as close to unprocessed as possible, like peppers, ginger or spices, that have health benefits and make sense in the flavor profile, why wouldn't you? It can't hurt — it can only help."
He gave us three to consider.
• 2 oz. Don Julio Reposado
• 1.5 oz. Grapefruit Juice
• .5 oz. Kummel
Build in glass over ice. Top with Sprite. Garnish with chipotle lime.
The nutrient combination of fiber, potassium, lycopene, vitamin C and choline found in grapefruit aids in maintaining a healthy heart. Plus, grapefruits are low in calories and an excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin C — which is good for healthy-looking skin.
Jerry Lee Lewis
• 1 oz. Ancho Reyes
• .5 oz. Cinnamon Syrup
• 1 Dash Chili Tincture
Build in a glass over ice. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and a chili. Sort of a deconstructed Fireball, the chili liqueur, bitters and garnish here have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
• 2 Coffee Beans
• 1.5 oz. Sailor Jerry
• 1.5 oz. Pineapple Juice
• .25 oz. Agave
• .25 oz. Lime Juice
Garnish with a coconut water ice cube and coffee beans. Besides the fresh juices here, the coconut water is key: it’s low fat, carbohydrates and calories, and features a significant amount of electrolytes.
The lobby bar at JW Marriott Chicago’s features cocktails using infused with herbs “regularly recommended by health experts for their health and well-being benefits,” including lavender, chamomile and orange blossom water. Dubbed Cocktails With a Purpose, the drinks were done in collaboration with Tippling Bros. and nutritionist Keri Glassman, and each focuses on “meeting the need for healthier cocktails, while still stirring the desire for a tasty experience.”
Green Mountain Dynamite
• 1.5 oz Absolut Citron
• 3/4 oz maple syrup
• 3/4 oz lemon juice
• 1 dash cayenne
• 3 dashes Urban Moonshine Organic maple bitters
Combine all ingredients into mixing tin. Add ice and shake well. Strain into frozen rocks glass with one large ice cube. Garnish with a lemon wheel.
A play on the famous lemon, maple and cayenne detox diet, the cayenne is used to burn fat, combat certain cancers and ward off inflammation. The maple syrup is a natural sweetener, and helps balance your appetite, support liver function and healthy skin, curb sugar cravings and aid with digestion.
Finally, Spencer Elliott of NY’s Bounce Sporting Club just added a kale drink to Bounce’s new brunch menu, a margarita “with a dose of leafy greens.”
• 1.5 oz tequila
• 3/4 oz agave
• 3/4 oz lime
• .5 oz kale juice
Garnish with lime. We often joke about kale, but overhyped superfood or not, it does have a good amount of protein, fiber and vitamins A, C and K.
So sip on that.