Drink to Your Health: The Art of the Restorative Tonic

A latte next to turmeric roots.
The National's Turmeric Latte comprised of turmeric, ginger, almond milk, honey syrup and black pepper is one of three restorative drinks they're serving to promote good health without sacrificing taste. (Photo: Erin Wilson)

The start of a new year brings the needed opportunity for rejuvenation. It’s the annual chance to reinvigorate yourself mentally, physically and spiritually. Peter Dale, owner and head chef of The National bar and restaurant in Athens, Georgia saw the need to begin 2017 with a focus on health, but he didn’t want to sacrifice flavor. “After a holiday season full of indulgence, a lot of us look at the new year as a time to cleanse and renew,” Dale says. “I don't think that has to be a spartan time, it can be delicious and fulfilling.”

Leading the charge for offerings that are as nutritious as they are tasty, Dale created a menu of aptly named Restorative Drinks. “They have been a huge hit, and it's caused us to reorganize supplies at the bar to accommodate — good problems,” he says.

The menu features three delicious nonalcoholic drinks: a Turmeric Latte with turmeric, ginger, almond milk, honey syrup and black pepper; London Fog, with Earl Grey, vanilla and your choice of almond or cow’s milk; and a Turmeric Tonic (adapted from Sqirl in LA) with turmeric, ginger, lemon and black pepper.

“These drinks provide antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, but more importantly you get a delicious drink that spares you from the excess of alcohol-based cocktails,” he says. “Even if you aren't cleansing, one of these drinks at lunch can help you recover from the previous night or fortify you for the night ahead.”

In creating each drink, Dale took into consideration how each ingredient impacted the other, both in terms of flavor and nutrition. “Some of these flavors can be intense on their own, so it's tricky to tame their bite while not relying on sugar or alcohol,” he says. And though some of the combinations may not read as appetizing to the unknowing eye, they’ve been expertly paired. “Turmeric and black pepper are great together, not only for flavor, but also pepper enhances the bioavailability of turmeric.”

Even if your bar or restaurant doesn’t have the capacity to make things like cold-pressed juices in-house, look to local juicers. In this case, The National sources turmeric and ginger from nearby Journey Juice.

“Our goal is simple, drinks that taste great and make you feel great,” says Dale.

Peter Dale and his team at The National aren't the only ones using mixology to bring New Year’s resolutions into focus. Los Angeles blogger, bartender and beverage consultant Gabriella Mlynarczyk has also seen the opening of this year as a time for restoration. In a post titled “An Ode to the Elements,” Mlynarczyk channels poetry about the elements to create corresponding drinks that are nutritious and creative. Although several of them include notes about which alcohol to add if you feel so inclined, many of the drinks are nonalcoholic, also representing an opportunity to detox without missing out on interesting flavor.

A cocktail garnished with carrots and gold. Restorative, nonalcoholic drinks like Gabriella Mlynarczyk's "Ode to Earth" don't have to be at all lacking in flavor or aesthetic appeal. (Photo: Gabriella Mlynarczyk)

“I wanted my first post of the New Year to be one of reflection and looking at where we are as a society,” Mlynarczyk says. “Climate change is especially on my mind and has been for a long time. My family were farmers for generations, and I feel that as a society we are losing our connection to the planet that we live on. The classic elements are what the ancient Greeks proposed to explain the nature of all matter on Earth and beyond. I usually base my posts on literary inspiration and the Ode from the five poets seemed to me the best way to represent those five elements.”

Beginning with an “Ode to Earth,” based on Emily Bronte’s poem, “Shall Earth No More Inspire Thee,” this drink combines nature’s bounty with juice from golden beets, red beets, carrots, ginger root and one of earth’s most valuable elements — gold. It is, quite literally, earthy. Beets boast nutrients that calm blood pressure and fight anemia, ginger is known for its digestive benefits and carrots are among the most vitamin- and antioxidant-rich foods you can eat or drink.

Similarly, Mlynarczyk’s “Ode to Water” is inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem entitled “Water” and features coconut water, clarified pineapple juice, Seedlip Spice and Blue Majik Spirulina, a capsule of algae that’s rich with iron and other minerals.

The other elements heralded: fire, air and aether, also correspond to poems and include healthy and unusual ingredients. “I always hope that any of my drinks whether they are nonalcoholic or boozy make give the drinker a thoughtful and exciting experience,” she says. “I think the health benefits of the ingredients in all of these drinks can reset the body, they’re also unique and fun to try.”

Restore yourself with The National's Turmeric Latte and Mlynarczyk’s Ode to Earth and Ode to Water.

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