A couple months back, I had a great conversation with Ori Geshury, Director of Education/Co-Founder of Aqua Vitae Institute.
The outcome of that chat was The Art of The Home Bar.
As we talked, I realized that Ori and I have a very similar approach to hobbies and problem solving.
Rather than memorizing recipes and procedures, Ori likes to utilize and teach systems so you can think on your feet and adapt to any situation.
Running out of limes in the middle of hosting a cocktail party isn't such a big deal when you know how to substitute other sour elements.
So it's with that “systems mentality” that we tackled the topics of juicing, infusions, and hangover preventions and cures.
And for good measure, Ori gave me the details on preparing a drink he calls the Good Morning Badass.
Just as in my last meeting with Ori, I had an idea of how I envisioned our conversation going and then he took it in a different (and better) direction than I expected.
From our initial emails, I thought we'd focus on making several single-ingredient infusions, like apple vodka, cinnamon whisky, and ginger liqueur.
But right away, I learned that Ori's approach to infusions is to essentially make a “cocktail in a jar”.
So rather than creating five or six infused spirits and liquors and then mixing them into a cocktail, we were going to blend all of the ingredients into a single jar.
The end goal here is to create an infusion that can be enjoyed on its own, but can also be lengthened by mixing it with club soda, champagne, fruit juice, etc.
A systems approach to infusions
Just like with mixing cocktails, once you're familiar with ingredients and understand the ratios, you can craft infusions to suit your personal taste.
What you'll need
- Mason jar
- 2 ounces of a sweet component (maple syrup, cane sugar, honey)
- Flavoring (fruit, herbs, spices)
- Spirits (vodka, gin, bourbon)
- Tea strainer
- Empty bottle (optional)
Recreating my favorite restaurant cocktail
About a year ago, I had a fantastic cocktail at an upscale Chinese restaurant and promptly declared it as the best drink I'd ever had.
Too bad they no longer offer this particular drink and I couldn't remember exactly what was in it.
On the bright side, a couple of the ingredients stood out in my mind and Ori helped me fill in the gaps.
But rather than crafting all of the individual infused spirits and liquors, he suggested that we combine them into an infusion.
Here's what I used:
- 3 oz fresh ginger, cubed
- 3 tbsp black tea (I used this)
- 2 oz. elderflower syrup (I used this)
- 750 mL Stoli vodka (aka, a fifth)
Making the infusion
I threw my chopped ginger in the jar, measured and added the tea leaves, poured in the elderflower syrup, and topped it all off with an entire bottle of vodka.
After I clamped the lid shut, I tipped the jar a few times to mix things up.
That's really all there is to it.
Just combine the ingredients, seal the lid, store it in a dark, cool place, and then try to refrain from opening it for at least a couple days.
The infusion process starts to happen right away.
Within an hour or so, my vodka had taken on a light tan color from the tea.
Generally, fresh fruit infusions will be ready in anywhere from a couple days to a week. For herbal infusions, they can steep for longer.
Just periodically check it and taste your brew.
When you're happy with the flavor, strain it and store your infusion either in the same mason jar or in a repurposed alcohol bottle like I did.
If you're more interested in following established recipes than you are with just winging it, Ori recommends a guide called Infuse: Oil, Spirit, Water by Eric Prum.
Gifting Homemade Infusions
Since you're taking the time to DIY, you might as well create a highly personalized product by using this all-in-one approach.
You can also use infusions to capture the essence of a season to be revisited later (the featured image is Autumn in a Jar).
Infusions are great to give as gifts. As adults, I feel like there aren't a lot of opportunities to give homemade gifts anymore.
But a DIY cocktail-in-a-jar is something that I wouldn't feel odd giving (or receiving).
Some great cocktail-in-a-jar ideas when you're ready to try your hand at infusions include:
- Cinnamon apple whisky (brown sugar, maple bourbon, granny smith apples, and cinnamon sticks)
- Cucumber mint gin (simple syrup, gin, cucumber slices, limes, and mint sprigs)
- Strawberry basil vodka (simple syrup, vodka, strawberries, limes, and fresh basil)
- Lemon honey rum tea (honey, dark rum, lemon slices, earl gray tea leaves)
A bartender's approach to juicing
Juicing fruits and vegetables is a fantastic habit to get into with innumerable health benefits.
But very few people do it (or keep it up for very long).
For most, the high cost of exotic ingredients and complexity of all the best recipes keeps juicing on the “some day” list.
That's where a bartender's thought process comes in handy.
With cocktails, bartenders need to be able to create drinks with a wide variety of ingredients (sometimes making substitutions) and deliver an exceptional product with minimal cost.
Using this same approach, Ori talked me through eliminating these barriers to make juicing an affordable and practical daily habit.
Build your base
Some common reasons for not juicing are the extremely high cost and low juice yield of many ingredients.
Really, you could spend your entire food budget if you were juicing large quantities of exotic berries on a daily basis.
But that's easily solved by building the base of your juice with affordable high water content/low bulk ingredients.
Great base ingredients are:
Add some accents
Now that you have your base, it's time to add some interesting flavors in smaller quantities.
This is where foundational knowledge of pairings come in handy.
It's great to know that some ingredients are overly sweet and need a sour element to calm them down.
Other ingredients may be very healthy, but also bitter. So you'll need something sweet to make them palatable.
Great accent ingredients include:
Finish off with superfoods
At this point, the volume and base flavors are squared away.
Now we want to add foods that top off the flavor profile and provide the real stand-out health benefits.
These will be the most expensive ingredients, but since they're so nutrient dense, you only need a small quantity to reap the rewards.
Don't expect to add a lot of juice volume from wheatgrass, for example.
Also, some of these superfoods are powders and will need to be stirred in, rather than juiced.
Excellent superfoods include:
- Goji berries
- Cacao powder
- Chia seeds
- Golden berries
Putting it all together
Now that you know what role each category of ingredient plays and in what general quantity to use them, it's time to start playing with flavors.
To really hone your tastebuds, try juicing these foods into separate glasses and then mix them in different combinations so you can see how they play with each other.
If you're looking for more structured guidance, Ori recommends the book Superfood Juices by Julie Morris.
Good Morning Badass – A Morning Cocktail
The Good Morning Badass is a non-alcoholic drink that Ori created to kick start his day.
Utilizing his bartending knowledge, he was able to tweak a morning elixir endorsed by health gurus.
The result is a drink that can help replenish minerals, alkalize, and rehydrate the body all at the same time.
And at only about 8 calories per glass, it's great for those who are trying to push their first meal back until after noon, Intermittent Fasting-style.
Here's what you'll need:
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1/4 tsp colored salt (I used Himalayan pink salt)
- 2 dashes cocktail bitters
- Mineral water
- Ice (optional)
To craft this little treat, all you have to do is combine your lime juice, salt, and cocktail bitters in 6 oz of mineral water and stir until the salt is dissolved.
Give it a taste and dilute if it's too salty or sour.
Now, when Ori gave me the recipe, I can't say that I was chomping at the bit to try it.
But when I really thought about it, I realized I like all of the individual components.
I used to consume seriously unhealthy quantities of the Lime Salt in middle school and my favorite part of a tequila shot is the salted lime that follows the drink.
And since I'm a fan of the Old Fashioned cocktail, I've grown partial to bitters as well.
After drinking my first glass at 5 am one day this week, I'm pleased to report that it was actually a delicious and invigorating start to the morning.
So even if this drink didn't offer any health benefits, I'd still enjoy this fizzy, refreshing cocktail regularly.
Never get a hangover again
New Year's Eve is just on the horizon so I feel as if this is timely advice.
Now, if you consume twenty drinks in a single night, there really isn't anything that will prevent the pounding headache, nausea, and bathroom antics that will ensue.
Sorry to disappoint.
But for moderate social drinking, Ori recommends the following regimen to help you feel your best by morning.
Before you go out
- Take vitamin C and glutathione
Both of these compounds help your liver metabolize alcohol and stocking up on them takes a proactive approach to preventing, rather than easing a hangover.
Take 500 mg vitamin C per expected drink, up to about 2,000 mg.
You can go higher than that, but assess your tolerance beforehand to avoid any intestinal upset (not the best set up for a night of drinking).
For glutathione, about 500 mg per drink for the first few drinks should do the trick.
You can also keep the vitamin C and glutathione tablets in your pocket and pop one of each between drinks.
However, I don't recommend this last tidbit if you're going to polish off a case of beer – that would be a reckless amount supplements to ingest and you're going to be in pain after an epic night of drinking like that anyway.
At the bar
- Drink at least half a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage you consume.
- Stick to clear alcohol
Not only are alcoholic drinks dehydrating, but they also “push out” any glasses of water you would normally consume during the evening.
Sometimes while I'm out at a bar, I like to order a club soda or mineral water and lime in between cocktails.
That way I'm getting in extra hydration and slowing down the rate at which I'm drinking, but I still have something to sip on alongside everyone else.
Dark spirits, such as red wine, bourbon, and beer contain more impurities known as congeners.
So if you're especially prone to hangovers, it's best to avoid these.
When you get home
- Drink a bottle of coconut water mixed with 1/4 tsp of colored salt.
- Take 2 activated charcoal pills for every alcoholic drink you consumed.
We already know that a major cause of hangovers is dehydration.
But depletion of minerals is another big one.
The coconut water and salt mixture is an excellent combination for rehydrating and replenishing calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium.
And the activated charcoal will bind to unabsorbed alcohol and help your body excrete, rather than metabolize, the additional booze.
The morning after
If you're still not feeling too great, try having some more coconut water or a glass of Good Morning Badass.
From personal experience, I also find that I don't start feeling better until I get something in my stomach.
I can wallow around until noon feeling terrible with absolutely no appetite. But as soon as I force something down, everything starts looking up.
So there you have it
Ori is such a well of knowledge and experience that it's sometimes hard to keep up with him.
But as you can see, he taught me enough to write an entire article on juicing, infusing, hangover remedies, and a morning pick-me-up in a single 60-minute phone call.
Although this is bit of a grab-bag post, I think there's something here for everyone and I encourage you to try out at least one of these in the near future.
I wish you all an awesome New Year!
All the best,