As sales of sugary drinks decline, something new is coming up in their place: plant waters, made from extracts of plants, grasses, fruits, vegetables, and even grains and trees.
And while these might be starting to line the shelves of supermarkets, they’re also finding a place in a few bars across the country, enjoyed for their mild flavor.
Quaintrelle in Portland, Ore., serves up the Keepsake, featuring sea beans infused with gin. Bar manager Camille Cavan offers it when sea beans are in season, which is typically May through July. “You have to catch them when they are fresh and crunchy,” she says, adding that she procures the beans from local, sustainable farmers. To make a tincture, she slightly crushes a cup of sea beans into 750 ml. of gin and infuses it for five to six days to bring out the oils and flavors, as well as a lovely bright yellow color.
To prepare the cocktail she mixes the tincture with Cocchi Americano and lemon oil to make her own version of a dirty martini. “It’s really interesting because it’s all ocean on the nose, then it becomes salty and olivey, like a dirty martini, on the palate.”
Her goal was to make a dirty martini that wasn’t quite as unhealthy, she says. “I was wondering if there’s a healthy, completely natural way to make something salty, without adding salt. Then I started snacking on sea beans and I thought they are kind of explosive—as soon as you bite them raw, you get all this oil and salty water. It was just a little experiment, but the drink is very fresh and very clean. The cocktail is garnished with sea beans and sells for $12.
Cavan’s also developed the Reckoner ($11), which uses her housemade nasturtium tincture that she infuses over three months. This runs during nasturtium season, which is May/June through August. The drink includes English-style gin, Priorat Natur Vermut, Campari, Carpano Bianco and nasturtium tincture.
Daniel Miller is the beverage director for Vedge Restaurant Group, which operates four vegan restaurants: three in Philadelphia (Vedge, V Street and Wiz Kid Food) and one in Washington, D.C., Fancy Radish.
Night Boat Recife is a play on a Caipirinha and was inspired by the company’s chef/owners’ trip to Brazil. It’s offered at V Street and contains cachaça, fresh lime, coconut water, Aperol and agave, all of which is shaken and served up.
“This is bright and refreshing, and the coconut adds a freshness that really helps the drink,” Miller says. “We wanted something lighter and more refreshing than a Caipirinha for summer, and the coconut water adds a bit of nuttiness to the drink, which goes well with the brightness of the wine and citrus notes of Aperol.”
The bar buys the coconut water, which is inexpensive (about 15 cents per ounce) but is thinking of making it in house, which, Miller says, “would add freshness but would also add labor and it would be harder to control pars.” However, he adds, the purchased water only lasts about two days once open.
This drink, Miller says, goes well with the spicy global street food served at V Street. It’s not been a best seller, he says, “because people are still getting used to cachaça and don’t order this because they don’t know what it is. The drink runs $12 with food costs of 15% to 20%.
This spring, Vedge has launched the Aloysius, a cocktail with aloe. It includes gin, St-Germain and housemade grapefruit cordial, as well as the aloe water. The $14 cocktail is garnished with dehydrated aloe. “The effect of the aloe garnish is almost of stained glass and it looks great on the side of the drink,” says Miller. The bar also buys the aloe water but would like to make this, too.
This cocktail is a favorite with guests, Miller says, “and goes really well with the food here, especially Pea Leaves and Spring Onions "Ohitashi" (smoked onion dashi, tofu tomago, furikake) and the leek tart.
- 2 oz. Seabean infused Citadelle Gin
- 0.5 oz. Cocchi Americano
- Lemon twist oil
Stir ingredients; strain into vintage coupe. Squeeze lemon twist into drink and garnish with seabeans, if in season.