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By Kevin Wheatley

Five creative – maybe curative – kombucha cocktails

If you've spent any time in line at a grocery store recently, you've no doubt noticed the explosion of specialty soft drinks in the grab 'n' go coolers. No longer merely stocked with the usual sugary colas and clear bottles of spring water, consumers can choose from a rainbow of flavors for every taste and diet. Lately, one drink has taken center stage as a healthier single serve choice, and its unique flavor makes it a surprisingly tasty choice for a cocktail mixer.

Health-conscious consumers have long touted the benefits of kombucha, a tangy Asian fermented tea beverage. Years ago, the only way to score a pint of kombucha was to find a co-op or organic market with vats of their in-house brew bubbling away in a dark corner. Today's kombucha market is vastly different and much more flavorful. And it's everywhere, with 50 percent market growth in 2017.

Its basic ingredients are tea, water, sugar and SCOBY, or Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. SCOBY is the source of the drink's probiotic magic. Although some of the health claims associated with kombucha are dubious, there are evidence-based benefits of the drink, such as the tea's antioxidants and rich probiotics, which promote digestion health.

Let's set aside the health benefits for a moment, though, and focus on the crisp flavor that is deliciously different. Plain kombucha tastes a little like a slightly sour lemon iced tea, but you'll find a myriad of flavors for sale, from blueberry ginger to cayenne. Its crisp body is similar to a dry cider, which welcomes a pairing with many spirits in exciting cocktail recipes. Here are five to try:

Lemon Ginger Kombucha Mule

1 oz vodka
½ lemon
Ginger flavored kombucha

Squeeze the lemon into a mule mug or a collins glass, rimming the mug or glass with the lemon. Add three ice cubes and the vodka, then fill the glass with the kombucha.

Apple Bourbon Digestif

1 oz bourbon
Slice of green apple
1 tsp sugar
2 oz red apple kombucha

Lay the apple slice at the bottom of a rocks glass. Sprinkle with raw sugar. Combine kombucha and bourbon in a mixer with ice, shake and strain over the sugared apple slice.

Gin and Blueberry Basil Juice

1 oz Bombay Sapphire Gin
5 oz Kevita Blueberry Basil kombucha
1 basil leaf

Mix gin and kombucha over ice, garnish with the basil leaf. Optional: Toss a few blueberries in with the ice; frozen berries work very well.

Cayenne Mezcal, Neat

1 oz mezcal
1 oz cayenne kombucha
Dash chipotle hot sauce

Mix all ingredients with ice, strain into a rocks glass.

Tart Cherry Kombucha Sangria

2 oz Tempranillo wine
2 oz Kevita Tart Cherry kombucha
Sliced stone fruits, such as peaches, nectarines, and/or apricots

Serve all ingredients over ice or, even better, scale up the recipe for a pitcher and let the flavors meld together for a party.

While enjoying these recipes, consider that it's not so outlandish for a cocktail to include a healthy beverage as a mixer. The first recorded cocktail recipe is from 1803, and was noted as a hangover remedy that was "excellent for the head." Next time you are at the market, grab a couple bottles of this colorful brew. It'll provide a punch of probiotic power to your day and to your cocktail repertoire.

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