People have become highly conscious, indeed conscientious, about what they eat. From restaurants to supermarkets, labels like organic and all-natural are everywhere. The same goes for the ingredients in what we drink, with one glaring exception—cocktails.
With their new book, Clean Cocktails: Righteous Recipes for the Modern Mixologist, licensed holistic health coaches Beth Ritter Nydick and Tara Roscioli aim to remedy that. In chapters organized by flavor profiles such as “Sweet and Fruity,” “Tart and Spicy” and “Fresh and Green,” they preach a gospel that is new only in its application to mixed drinks.
As they explain in their introduction, “Our philosophy…was to use four popular low-calorie spirits that pair beautifully with” freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices and purées, fresh herbs and spices and “natural, gentle sweeteners like honey and dates.”
Hangover helper? Well, yes. While advocating moderation in the consumption of alcohol, the authors point a finger at the artificial flavors and colorings often found in cocktails and commercial mixes.
“The chemicals and additives found in your average cocktail,” says Roscioli, who lives in Maplewood, “are what cause the intense headaches, bloat and overall inflamation otherwise known as ‘the morning after.’”
For those who abstain, the authors include a chapter of refreshing mocktail recipes and another on fruit, herb and spiced syrups, all sweetened with dates, honey, maple syrup or coconut sugar instead of refined sugar.
“We didn’t want to put up unnecessary barriers,” says Nydick, who lives in Livingston, “so we didn’t get caught up in things like only recommending raw honey or only organic this or that.”
At first glance, the recipes, Roscioli says, “might look elaborate, but almost every ingredient is something you can go to your town grocery store and get.”
The authors, both moms, came to their present careers by what you might call the hard way.
In her former life as a TV producer, Nydick says she hauled herself through 18-hour days with Diet Coke and corn muffins. When Fox News cancelled The Rob Nelson Show, which she was producing, in 2001, she decided to “reevaluate my life and get back on track.” She began schooling herself on health and nutrition. When her son was born the next year, she made his baby food from vegetables she grew herself.
Roscioli tells a similar tale. An attorney, she confesses in the book’s introduction to starting “each day with my Marlboro Lights and a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee loaded with skim milk and artificial sweeteners.” Dinner was wine and iceberg lettuce. All day she sneaked “bags and bags of candy.”
Eventually both women earned degrees from the Institute for Integrated Nutrition, an online, non-accredited school, and became holistic health coaches. Nydick founded Blue Barn Kitchen to sell her organic snack bars and teach clients the art of healthy eating. Roscioli created Meals 2 GLO, an organic meal delivery service, and Highway 2 Well, a health-and-wellness practice, both in Millburn.
They didn’t meet until 2013. During a networking event for health coaches, they escaped to the bar, where they each noted with approval the other’s drink order: Nydick asked for a sugar-free mojito, Roscioli for a tequila with fresh-squeezed lime, “no Rose’s.” They immediately bonded, and even won over the initially skeptical and irritated bartender. Over those drinks, the book idea was hatched.
Anyone looking for footnotes and detailed substantiation of some of the health claims in the introduction will be disappointed. But it’s hard to argue with the basic premise of cutting out artificial ingredients and using natural sweeteners and flavors. “People like to drink,” says Roscioli. “If I tell clients they can’t have a drink again, they’ll fail. So let’s make the best drink possible.”