Eating fruits and vegetables is good-for-you nutritious. But did you know drinking them can be fun and delicious? To judge by restaurant menus, more and more people are imbibing fruit- or veggie-based nonalcoholic drinks, whether they're dining out or eating in.
Welcome to the expanding age of mocktails, where what's in the glass will set your head spinning with intricate layerings of flavor, pretty colors and inventive presentations. It's about freshness, quality, seasonality and creativity. But not alcohol.
"More people, either out of conviction or whatever, are choosing not to drink," said Tona Palomino, former bar manager for Wylie Dufresne's WD-50 restaurant in New York. "Bars are receptive to accommodating the requests. Chances are you're not going to get a cranberry and soda."
It's a spillover from the ongoing cocktail revolution across the country. And bartenders are dipping into their house-made syrups, bitters and other flavorings to answer the call.
"The idea has always been there's a magic elixir to make you feel better, whether it was made from sassafras or bathtub gin. That there's something that can make you feel better and do it without a hangover, all the better," said Clark Wolf, a food and drink trend spotter. "More people are saying: The alcohol is not working for me anymore. But they want great meals and great experiences at the table, and they see no reason to be denied."
Choice is key too.
Go into any supermarket, and the drinks aisle is stocked with bottles containing various blends of juices and tea, said Deborah Blum, co-owner of Starbelly, a San Francisco restaurant with a roster of nonalcoholic drinks.
"Restaurants are realizing people want alternatives and that they can be creative," she said.
Expect to see more seasonal nonalcoholic choices as well, Blum predicts. Right now, most are fruit-based, but she hopes to see more vegetable-based options.
Wolf also looks for more vegetable drinks, noting most of our popular soft drinks historically derived from roots, leaves or twigs - albeit with some amount of sugar involved. He also thinks the increasing patronage of farmers markets and a growing awareness of what fresh really tastes like will play a role.
"Americans like to play with their food," he says. "And if it comes in a tall, frosty glass that's OK."