February 22, 2013
Many of us enter a new year with the idea to refresh and renew, trying to implement resolutions and stick to them. The end of the year is usually a festive time, one which brings with it lots of eating and drinking. Here in Miami, the games begin in early December with Art Basel and end sometime just after New Year's day - hopefully. By that time, we're usually feeling some guilt and fatigue, and therefore a desperate desire to correct the error of our ways. In order to get healthy, fit and back into certain clothes, we usually go through a period of abstinence and detoxification and we say "bye-bye" to booze for a while.
Around that time of year, in early January, it is increasingly common to hear the word "juicing", to the point of annoyance. It perhaps bothers me in particular, because I have never fully adopted juicing and it makes me think of the "quick fix," which is so common these days. It's like going to confession if you're Catholic - do all the damage and be afforded absolution by repenting or in this case juicing/cleansing. I digress...
I've owned a juicer for years and have used it on occasion but not with any long or short term consistency. This year however, I decided to take the plunge and juice my meals for a few January days. I started with a day's worth of juices from Jugo Fresh, this excellent new juice bar in Miami Beach. Then, I made my own juices for three more days. By the fourth and final day, I felt very, very good and had come to some conclusions. The first, was that a juice cleanse wasn't an annoying period of abstinence, it was bearable, even enjoyable with a righteous feeling of doing something good for my body. I also came to realize that there were infinite combinations of vegetable, herb and fruit juices that would mix very well with spirits like gin or tequila or even brown spirits such as rye whisky or brandy.
I started experimenting at home one evening with my juicer and citrus press. I had an abundance of cucumbers and some dill so I threw them into the machine and what resulted was a vibrant, beautiful green juice and just screamed for gin! I put some St. Georges Botanivore gin and the cucumber juice into a shaker with ice, along with a little fresh-squeezed lime juice, et voilá, a really stunning, delicious and heathly cocktail was born.
While the words healthy and green don't cry out tasty to everyone, I can assure that this cocktail was delicious. It was so refreshing and a perfect summertime cocktail. However, the addition of some form of sugar, either a syrup or a sweeter citrus such as orange or grapefruit could be added to suit one's taste.
Consider the health benefits of mixing your spirits with freshly pressed vegetable and fruit juices. Cucumber and dill for example are full of vitamins such as B and A, not to mention minerals such as iron.
...and there's more:
Surely we are all familiar with citrus juice cocktails such as vodka and orange juice, the Screwdriver, or grapefruit juice for the Greyhound. Fresh citrus of all kinds should be considered for shaking with all your favourite spirits as they have been since the beginning of (cocktail) time.
Recently, TS (the bff) invited me over for some cocktail-making, to implement some of her Christmas gifts, which included a set of gorgeous coupes and a cocktail shaker. We have started to each host these "cocktail-making sessions" which, are inspired by a newly acquired spirit or a fruit of the season.
That night we used fresh kumquats to muddle with tequila, red vermouth and bitters from the bar. What resulted was an excellent cocktail that we named the Béatrice for fun but the point here is that we used a fresh ingredient that added health benefits to the cocktail. Kumquats are unique in the citrus family as you are to eat them whole, skin and all and therefore the health benefits are greater, for example they are very high in vitamin C, carotene and the peel provides us with essential oils.
One of the most interesting cocktails I've had so far this year was during a trip to L.A. (see previous blog post). This very simple drink of tequila and coconut milk was served with a Maraschino cherry which, we changed out for a wedge of lime to add an acidic dimension and then a sprinkle of sea salt on top.
This is such a tasty drink, reminiscent of the Piña Colada, but healthy because of the coconut milk and lack of any added sugars or chemicals. You can make coconut milk, but the canned version is easiest, just read the label to make sure you're buying nothing but coconut milk. By using coconut milk in some cocktails, you will be affording yourself an abundance of Vitamin C, B and E as well as a plethora of antioxidants and Lauric acid.
I really enjoy experimenting with cocktail making, the opportunities are endless and if you focus on using good artisanal spirits, liqueurs and bitters, along with fresh pressed or squeezed juices and nut milks, there will be a significant health benefit to your imbibing.