By Ashleigh VanHouten
Veggie Martini, Mr Sinatra?
-Shaken and Stirred as well as Mashed, Smashed, Liquidized, Pulverized,and Quick Frozen
Since the Bloody Mary was reputedly created in Paris in the Twenties. cocktails with vegetables (although strictly speaking the tomato is classed as a fruit) have usually been used as a cure for too much drinking rather than the over-indulgence itself. City bartenders today however are increasingly asked for a Tomatillo Mary, a Beet Martini, Ginger Carrot Splash, and even a Cucumber Sling.
Not the sort of libation for Joe to set up at quarter-to-three for Mr Sinatra.*
Forget your cranberry cocktail – bartenders are replacing sweet fruit juices and liqueurs with veggies, and the results are, ahem, mixed: sometimes healthier, sometimes tastier, sometimes a green juice nightmare. Still, if you need to get more greens in your diet, there are worse ways to do it than in a cocktail. If you have to choke down $13 dollar concoctions of kale and celery, at least skip the gourmet salads and add a shot of vodka to the mix.
The veggie cocktail phenomenon all started with the Bloody Mary (or its Canadian and somewhat spicier counterpart, the Caesar). Somehow, a concoction made from vodka, tomato juice, worchestershire sauce, and salty spices became a hit – so is it any surprise that today’s adventurous bartenders are including more and more veggies in their increasingly experimental drinks?
And it’s worth mentioning that Bloody Mary’s were big before people boasted about how many cruciferious veggies they could jam into their Vitamix. Although it’s been popular in hippie circles for a while, it’s only been the past few years that drinking overpriced, liquefied greens has really become de rigueur in New York. Maybe it’s our obsession with doing things faster (now, we don’t have to chew) or paying too much to prove our worth (we just paid $10 for a juice; look how much richer and better we are than you!), but folks are buying into juice cleanses and fasts more than ever before. And ask any trendy, green-juicing New Yorker: there are still parties to attend and alcohol-fueled mistakes to make, just now with a greener tint.
Take Apotheke, for example, the apothecary-cum-opium den nestled away on Doyers Street in Chinatown. Their complex cocktails, or “prescriptions”, are categorized as stress relievers, aphrodisiacs, or stimulants, based on their ingredients (many of which are grown on their rooftop garden, of course). And while some of these drinks are rather delightful – the chai whiskey sour with rye, sweet chai, lemon and egg white, for example – some are almost daring you drink them. Is a drink made from quinoa vodka, kale juice and ginger worth the potential beauty benefits it bestows? Jury’s out. You’ll also find bell pepper, cilantro, basil, turmeric and cashew orgeat as ingredients in some of the drinks, but one wonders if these health-boasting mixes are preaching to a choir that doesn’t exist: anyone health-nutty enough to enjoy one of these drinks wouldn’t be sullying the temple with alcohol in the first place.
But for the sake of argument (because we at New York Moves love to argue, if nothing else) let’s continue. At Penrose Bar on the UES you can pick up a Dirty Pickle Martini, vodka splashed with spicy pickle brine. Again, a study in contrast: the only person I can imagine craving one of these would be a pregnant woman, but aren’t they supposed to steer clear of booze? Conventional wisdom keeps changing, so who knows.
At Candle Café, one of New York’s most famous vegan spots, their “eco-cocktails” (yes, that’s what they’re called) include a drink called Jack the Smith that sounds like a Pumpkin Spice latte gone horribly wrong, and also like something that would make folks from Mad Men roll over in their whiskey-soaked graves: spiced rum with pumpkin, orange, soy milk (!), cinnamon, maple syrup, and cayenne. At the Wayland on East 9th street, their Garden Variety Margarita keeps the tequila (good) but adds kale juice (bad) for what they probably think is a grown up version of the good-timey drink. I’ll stick with the lime juice and sugar, thanks. Parm has a robust beet negroni; Greenwich Project NYC’s Suarez has a mind-boggling combination of rum, scotch bonnet tincture, celery bitters, and orange cream citrate; and at the aptly named Experimental Cocktail club you could get a creamy beet-cased cocktail “spiked with yogurt mescal.” I suppose at one point, egg whites in a cocktail may have seemed strange, so perhaps we can give a boozy yogurt drink a pass?
Whether we like veggies or we’re just pretending, it’s a fact: they’re healthy and good for you, and it’s a food group most of us don’t get enough of. We can debate whether trace amounts of celery in your booze have any benefit aside from placebo effect, but at the end of the day, it’s all about what floats your boat. Case in point: the other day, my husband ordered a Caesar (the Canadian Bloody Mary I talked about earlier; pretty much the same, but with clamato juice instead of tomato. Oh, you don’t know what clamato juice is? It’s a mix of tomato and clam juice. I know, I know, here I was, trying to convince you that beet juice is awful, when up North we’ve been drinking clam juice all along. Deal with it). His perfectly “normal” Caesar came garnished with a full stick of pepperoni. Tacky, overdone, gross? Yeah. Did he love it? Hell yeah. Whether you mix your booze with fruit juice, kale, salted meat or just some ice cubes, the most important thing is, you’re getting drunk, and THAT craving, my friends, is certainly not a passing fad.
*One For My Baby, One More For The Road.