Favorite tipples from the book, Apothecary Cocktails
Give your merry-making a healthy makeover with these 10 healing drinks from Apothecary Cocktails: Restorative Drinks from Yesterday and Today. From a buttery hot toddy to a gin-and-basil tonic, these curative drinks have roots in the era when pharmacy-mixed potions were prescriptions for what ailed you.
Warren Bobrow is a mixologist and creator of the Cocktail Whisperer.
Chiles may set your heart racing and make you break out in a sweat, but eating them should leave you feeling cleansed and purified in both body and soul. Historically, pharmacies may have concocted products combining chile peppers with magnesium. When these ingredients were combined with grain alcohol and used either as an external salve or an internal elixir, they offered sufferers relief from painful ailments, such as lower back pain, muscle cramps, and fibromyalgia. Today, a chili-laden cocktail is a great way to relieve headaches caused by overindulgence.
Like the classic Bloody Mary, its tomato base is jam-packed with the antioxidant lycopene, but the addition of onions, chiles, and leafy magnesium-rich green vegetables make this cocktail super-healthy, closer to a salad in a glass. A Deep Healer with a protein-packed brunch, such as a veggie omelet, will fix that pesky hangover in no time.
1 c (250 g) tomato purée
½ c (125 g) onion purée
¼ c (65 g) hot chile paste
1 oz (28 g) spinach, kale, or other dark leafy green
5 oz (150 ml) vodka
1. ADD all ingredients to a blender, and blend on regular speed until thoroughly combined.
2. SERVE over ice cubes in two tall glasses, and wait for the pain to evaporate.
Saffron has been used in Ayurvedic medicine and Asian and Mediterranean cooking for thousands of years. Derived from the crocus flower, this precious spice has been praised for its healing qualities: It’s reputed to be an antiseptic, antidepressant, antioxidant, digestive aid, and anti-convulsion restorative. And it’s been used in the production of herbal liqueurs like Chartreuse, something French imbibers enjoy as an after-dinner drink. Of course, saffron is astronomically expensive, but never fear: As with most good things, a little goes a long way.
This mood-lifting prescriptive combines top-quality Chartreuse with vermouth and egg white for a colorful, frothy little cocktail that’ll brighten up even the greyest day. Top it off with a thread or two of saffron as a nod to Chartreuse’s luscious color.
3 oz (90 ml) Chartreuse VEP
1 oz (30 ml) dry vermouth
1 egg white
2 to 3 saffron threads
1. ADD the Chartreuse, vermouth, and egg white to a Boston Shaker; then fill the shaker three- quarters full with ice.
2. SHAKE vigorously for 20 seconds until frothy. Strain the mixture into a coupé glass, and garnish with the saffron. Then sit back and watch sinking spirits rise.
While you may not be able to actually cure a cold, it’s certainly possible to relieve its symptoms. Peppermint has analgesic qualities, which means it’s known to ease cold-related pain like headaches. Peppermint infusions can also relieve ailments of the stomach, such as nausea, indigestion, and seasickness. It’s also used in Bénédictine, one of the main ingredients in this insomnia-banishing drink. Be sure to crown your Cold Cure #1001 with Jamaican bitters, which are said to contain ingredients widely used in folk healing, such as allspice, ginger, and black pepper. Breathe deeply before taking a sip of this curative: If that pesky cold makes breathing feel like snorkeling with a drinking straw, a few whiffs of these aromas will alleviate congestion and speed snoozing.
12-oz (355 ml) pot of hot peppermint tea
5 to 6 oz (150 to 175 ml) Bénédictine
3 to 4 oz (90 to 120 ml) sweet vermouth
10 drops Jamaican bitters
1. PREPARE the pot of peppermint tea; then remove the teabags.
2. PREHEAT two large mugs by filling them with boiling water; discard the water after a few seconds.
3. ADD the Bénédictine, followed by the vermouth, to the pot. Mix gently, and let the mixture sit for a few minutes.
4. ADD the bitters, pour into the mugs, and serve immediately. Inhale, soothing those grumpy sinuses.
The hot toddy cocktails we know and love today have their roots in the days of yore, when apothecaries might have prescribed them for relief against the aches and pains the Siberian-strength cold weather brings on. Hot toddies are cocktails in which hot or boiling water is added to spirits and other ingredients, and many of these tasty, warming tipples were created to ease cold and flu symptoms. Ships’ doctors may have delivered doses of this classic hot buttered rum to sailors to relieve aching bones and flagging spirits. Four magic ingredients—hot tea, sugar, butter, and rum—shore up every sailor who’s ever headed face-first into a full gale. Today, this curative is a treat that goes down smoothly after a long day of skiing, hiking, or just sitting by the fire.
Hot black tea
6 oz (175 ml) rum
Dark brown sugar to taste
2 tsp butter (9 g or about 2 acorn-sized lumps)
Freshly grated nutmeg
1. BREW a pot of strong black tea. While the tea is steeping, preheat mugs by filling them with boiling water; discard the water after a few seconds.
2. ADD 3 oz (90 ml) of rum to each mug. Fill each mug with tea and mix gently.
3. SWEETEN to taste with dark brown sugar. Add an acorn-sized lump of butter to each mug, and dust each drink with fresh nutmeg. Anchors aweigh!
Genever, the botanical gin that hails from Holland and Belgium, has been used as a curative for more than 500 years, and it’s packed with healing ingredients like nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander, angelica, thistle, sweet orange peel, and grains of paradise. It’s a natural match for citrus juices, like oranges and lemon—although in the early days of the apothecaries, citrus fruits were so exotic that you’d rarely catch a glimpse of them outside of the tropics. Nonetheless, pharmacists may have prescribed a combination of fruits, spices, and grain-based spirits as a speedy antidote to pain. This warm tonic unites citrus, fresh ginger, green tea, and mineral-rich Brazil nuts, which are meant to reduce inflammation and relieve pain, into a gently warming prescription that eases all sorts of aches.
3 oz (90 ml) genever
1 oz (30 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 oz (30 ml) freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp (15 g) powdered Brazil nuts
Warm green tea
COMBINE all ingredients in a small saucepan and warm over low heat until the ginger releases its perfume (about 10 minutes). Pour into teacups and serve.
When it comes to curatives that enhance restful sleep, hot drinks aren’t the only answer. A punch made from herbal teas and botanical gin can relieve sleeplessness, even when it feels as if nothing could bring you closer to the Land of Nod. This cocktail combines infusions of herbs known to relax the sleep-deprived, and traditional apothecaries would have been well-versed in their benefits. Chamomile, an anti-inflammatory, has been used as an antidote to anxiety for centuries, while lavender is said to gently ease irritating sleep disturbances. Fennel helps to keep digestion on track. A dose of botanical gin and lime juice bind the infusions together into a gentle tipple that will help turn off the lights for even the most dedicated insomniac.
1 tea bag each chamomile tea, lavender tea, and fennel tea
Juice of 1 lime
Honey simple syrup (1 c boiling water + 1 c honey, mixed and dissolved), to taste
3 oz (90 ml) botanical gin
1. INFUSE the teabags in 5 oz (150 ml) hot water for at least an hour and let cool.
2. PACK a tall glass with ice. Pour the tea over the ice; add the lime juice, and sweeten to taste with the honey simple syrup.
3. ADD the gin, and mix gently. G’night!
Fernet Branca was invented in nineteenth-century Italy to ease maladies of the belly, and it’s certainly retained its marketing mystique even a century and a half later. Fernet is easy to quaff on its own or mixed with cola—but it’s just as good served steaming hot. In the Caribbean, it’s often paired with English breakfast tea and honey, a combination that’s said to relieve stomachaches of all sorts. Plus, as any apothecary of auld lang syne would have agreed, both warm liquids and honey can aid digestion.
Nota bene: While it calls for English breakfast tea, I don’t recommend trying this curative for breakfast. You’ve been warned.
3 oz (90 ml) Fernet Branca
Pot of strong English breakfast tea (about 2 c, or 475 ml)
2 Tbsp (40 g) raw honey
1. PREHEAT two mugs by filling them with boiling water; discard the water after a few seconds.
2. ADD 1½ oz (45 ml) of Fernet Branca to each mug. Fill the mugs with tea, and stir 1 Tbsp of honey into each mug. Sip slowly, and let the healing begin.
Combining ginger—said to be an effective cure for a variety of ailments, including headaches, motion sickness, fatigue, and pregnancy-related nausea—with hot punches or beer is a classic way to use the root as a curative, as sailors of yesteryear would have known. Named after the honorable doctor in Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic, Treasure Island, this cocktail matches ginger beer with its natural partner, rum, into a tipple that rouses the mood and washes the doldrums away.
3 oz (90 ml) dark rum
4 oz (120 ml) ginger beer (non-alcoholic)
Lime wedge for garnish
1. FILL a Collins glass with ice cubes. Pour the ginger beer over the ice; then float the dark rum on top.
2. GARNISH with a lime wedge to keep scurvy at bay. Drink slowly, and let good cheer fill your sails.
Everyone knows that royal jelly, which is produced by worker bees and fed to their hive-mates, is an important curative in health preparations. But raw (unprocessed) honey is also deeply curative, and what’s more, the distillation of spirits using raw honey is an ancient, well-regarded technique. Honey has been used medicinally at least since ancient Egyptian civilization, and beverages produced from honey, such as mead, have been enjoyed since time immemorial. Raw honey may possess antibacterial qualities and is said to promote weight loss, reduce cholesterol, and relieve symptoms of intestinal disorders. This bubbly cocktail combines sweet mead with tart, refreshing lemonade and a dash of fizzy water into a prescriptive that is sure to cheer and heal at the same time.
6 oz (175 ml) mead
6 oz (175 ml) fresh lemonade
4 dashes of aromatic bitters (any kind)
4 oz (120 ml) seltzer water
1. COMBINE the mead, lemonade, and bitters in a mixing glass or pitcher.
2. STIR to combine, and pour into four short glasses.
3. TOP each glass with about 1 oz (30 ml) of seltzer water, sip, and start feeling like the bee’s knees.
Basil, with its bracing, peppery taste, isn’t just good for pesto. It was said to mitigate the symptoms of malaria and was made into a liniment to soothe sunburns. Basil was also used as a nerve tonic against stress and anxiety, and it is even said to promote longevity. One variety of the herb, called holy basil or Thai basil, is used as an ingredient alongside other green herbs in both absinthe and green Chartreuse, due to its antiseptic and antibacterial qualities. Thai basil can be very effective when it comes to healing a sour stomach: Try a Thai Basil Fizz if you spent last night indulging in spicy food washed down by one too many cocktails.
1 sprig basil, finely chopped
2 oz (60 ml) botanical gin
¼ oz (7 ml) absinthe
3 to 4 shakes of Peychaud’s bitters
2 to 3 oz (60 to 90 ml) ginger beer
Lemon zest twist
1. TOSS the chopped basil into a Boston shaker. (Be sure to lean over the shaker for a restorative whiff of its crisp, spicy scent!)
2. ADD the gin and absinthe, and fill the shaker three-quarters full of ice.
3. SPRINKLE the bitters into the mix, then shake for 20 seconds, strain into a coupé glass, and top with the ginger beer.
4. GARNISH with the lemon zest twist. The heady combination of basil, ginger, and lemon is sure to brush the cobwebs away