Can a cocktail actually be good for you—not just in the figurative I-could-really-use-a-margarita sense, but actually beneficial to your health? New York-based mixologist Jules Aron says yes – and she has just released her first cookbook, “Zen and Tonic: Savory and Fresh Cocktails for the Enlightened Drinker” (The Countryman Press), which is full of spiked green kale juice concoctions and other clever ways to drink your fruits and vegetables.
We asked Aron for her favorite no-juicer-necessary ways to pack nutrient-dense superfoods into refreshing summer cocktails—plus two bonus recipes from her book.
1. Use green tea.
Green tea is high in antioxidants and it’s also an almost-instant mixer. “Make iced tea, add bourbon and peach; now you have a bourbon-peach iced tea,” says Aron. “It can be as simple as muddling fruit in green tea and then boozing it up.”
2. Muddle berries (lots of them!).
Berries are one of Aron’s go-to ingredients because they’re naturally sweet. Her Super Fruit Sangria (recipe below) is packed with them. Or, she suggests whizzing a handful of blackberries, a pitted plum, some gin and a squeeze of lime in the blender. “You’re basically spiking a bowl of berries,” says Aron. “Everyone thinks that’s tasty.”
3. Spike with spirulina and wheatgrass powders.
Stock up on spirulina and wheatgrass powders to make green cocktails without a juicer. The former is a brilliantly colored algae that’s high in protein and omega fatty acids. “It’s practically tasteless so you can mix it with anything,” Aron says. She likes it best with kiwi and apple juice in a vodka shot she calls the Lucky Charm. You could also just sprinkle it into a gin and tonic.
4. Infuse the booze.
“Zen and Tonic” contains several recipes for infusing sprits with wholesome ingredients, like goji-berry vodka and cherry bourbon. Just drop the flavorings into the bottle, let it sit for a day to a week, and strain. You can then use the spirit in any cocktail you like or drink it straight. Aron believes that any ingredients you use as infusers will actually leave their nutrients behind, preserved in the alcohol.
5. Sweeten with unrefined syrups.
Refined white sugar is just empty calories, so to sweeten cocktails Aron uses molasses, maple syrup, raw honey and date syrup. These alternatives add complex sweetness, and they’re more nutritious. Molasses is Aron’s favorite because it’s so high in minerals like magnesium and iron. She dilutes it with water to tone down its distinctively strong flavor. “That way you get the benefits without having it full blast,” she says. She likes it in rum drinks, like a Dark and Stormy.
6. Pack nutrients into ice.
Use frozen juices, almond milk , aloe and coconut waters to add flavor and nutrients to drinks. Aron freezes cherry and noni juice (that’s a Tahitian fruit, you can sub pomegranate juice) in ice cube trays. “Pour some tequila over it and it’s an instant cocktail,” she says.
7. Thicken with avocado.
You’ve probably heard of adding avocado to a smoothie to add creaminess and healthy fat. The same idea works for a cocktail. Aron’s take on a pineapple margarita is rich and smooth thanks to a few tablespoons of avocado.