What You Need To Know:
- Whether you’re making mocktails or cocktails, start with organic raw ingredients whenever possible.
- Use ingredients with natural sweetness, or make your own syrups so you know exactly what kind—and how much—sugar is going into your drink.
- Don’t be afraid to highlight unusual flavor notes.
- If using alcohol, buy organic varieties, or use other fermented beverages like kombucha.
By Jessica Hamlin
‘Tis the season to eat, drink and be merry. Right?
But hold-up before that next toast: holiday drinks can sneak in as much sugar—and as little nutrition—as a couple slices of fruitcake!
So while cocktails aren’t exactly health food, it is possible to raise the bar on holiday drinks. In fact, you can imbibe with mocktails and cocktails that are actually good for you, packed with immune-boosting, gut-healthy ingredients. Call it a Christmas miracle.
The first rule of thumb—stock up on high-quality ingredients, some of which can even help counter the effects of alcohol so you can “detox while you retox.”
“A great cocktail is all about balance,” Julia Momose, head bartender at Chicago’s GreenRiver tells Clean Plates. “Each component in the drink should have its moment to shine. I believe in only adding ingredients if they better the whole.”
Momose shared a recipe for a Ginger-Beet Mocktail—watch the video above to see how it’s made, or follow the recipe below. You can transform this non-alcoholic drink into a cocktail with an ounce or two of your favorite spirit. (Use organic liquors whenever possible like Greenbar Collective’s Tru organic vodka and gin.) This holiday-ready drink features red beet juice, ginger, grapefruit and lime and is made especially merry when crowned with a thyme “wreath” garnish. You can deck the halls and your glass.
This mocktail is a great winter tonic, too: Research has shown beet juice to be high in antioxidants and naturally occurring nitrates, which improve blood flow and lower blood pressure; ginger aids in digestion, immunity and a host of other health functions; grapefruit is high in immunity-boosting and age-fighting vitamins C and A; lime takes that vitamin C to another level.
Want an even easier idea? With its effervescence and variety of flavors, fermented tea drink kombucha is a mixology natural. It’s packed with probiotics, and those good bacteria help maintain gut health, leading to better digestion and immunity—just what we need this time of year.
However, not all kombuchas are created equal. Some brands can have as many as 20 grams of sugar per bottle or more. Yowza! Look instead for GT’s Kombucha, the most widely available brand. Flavors include gingerade, lemonade and Christmas-appropriate cranberry, each with only 4 grams of sugar per 16-ounce bottle.
Whip up a Pomegranate Kombucha Cocktail when you need some holiday cheer. It’s antioxidant-rich and can be paired with everything from biodynamic Prosecco to organic vodka. For those who simply want to open up a bottle, organic Kombrewcha Kombucha is a light beerlike beverage with only 65 calories and 4g of sugar. Sounds like another reason to celebrate!
- 1 large knob of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 tablespoon raw honey
- 2 ounces beet juice
- 1 1/2 ounces fresh lime juice
- 1 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
- Sparkling water
- Freshly ground black pepper and thyme sprigs, for garnish
- Place the ginger into a high-speed blender with 1 cup water. Blend thoroughly, about 20 seconds. Place cheese cloth over a large measuring cup (you can also use a thin tea towel). Pour the ginger juice into the cup, allowing the pulp to remain in the cheesecloth. Let drain. Discard the pulp or use it in foods like stews, soups, oatmeal, or rice.
- Pour 1/2 ounce of the ginger liquid into the measuring cup and add the honey. Stir until well incorporated.
- Place all of the remaining ingredients, including the ginger-honey juice, in a cocktail shaker and shake until incorporated.
- Pour mixture into a glass with ice and top with as much sparkling water as you would like.
- Garnish with freshly ground black pepper and thyme sprigs (entwined into a wreath shape, if possible).