Walk into your average liquor store and you’ll spot promotions for beverages with added vitamins, herbs, caffeine, and just about every sort of blood-pumping, feel-good, sex-inducing additive. And I’m not talking about the Red Bulls, Powerades, and Rockstars that have replaced the orange and cream sodas on 7/11 shelves. The new “functional” drinks are vodkas, tequilas, gins, and liqueurs.
The concept of functional wines and spirits is nothing new. Dubonnet, for example, was invented over 150 years ago by French chemist, Joseph Dubonnet, to make quinine more palatable for soldiers in North Africa during a malaria epidemic. Dubonnet is a member of a category of traditional functional beverages called aperitifs. The idea behind aperitifs is to prepare the palate and digestive system for a meal, as well as to aid the digestion in moving the meal through in time for post-dinner bed sport. Dubonnet Rouge, for example, is a fortified wine blended with quinine as well as a combination of herbs, flowers barks, and other botanicals. Valentine red in color, Dubonnet served over ice is a refreshing flavor combination with notes of tart cherry, citrus, and mint. (And yes, it is true that the bouquet of botanicals sufficiently hides the quinine, which merely adds a needed edge under the drink’s prettier layers).
While the market for aperitifs has seen recent regeneration in this time of functional foods, newcomers to the market have taken a stiffer approach to fortifying their drinks – and by stiff I do not mean uptight!
Lotus Vodka, a company that came on the scene in 2007, produces two vodkas created to give the rest of your body a little health boost, while you slowly destroy your liver. The company, based in San Francisco, conceived a product that would appeal to the local market – that being young, white collar professionals who like to party but have to wake up for work the next morning. Both White and Blue Lotus cleverly contain all those hangover-fighting B vitamins. But White has additional ginseng for energy as well as noted aphrodisiac l-arginine. It’s added ingredients give the spirit tremendous weight as well as a silky mouthfeel and remarkable sweetness. Blue contains caffeine and guarana, both excellent fortifiers for a night on the horizontal dance floor. Its flavors are much more mellow than White. Blue is a vodka for those who like their drinks super smooth.
P.I.N.K, a spirits company making a splash on the nightclub scene, offering a line of spirits all fortified with caffeine and guarana . The company makes P.I.N.K Vodka, Tequila, Sake, Gin, White Whisky and Rum.
Another newcomer to the “functional” marketplace is Bulldog Gin in its compact, black bottle. Unlike most of the new drinks in this marketplace, Bulldog doesn’t add aphrodisiac or other nutritional components for the sake of targeting the “functional” marketplace. Instead their product is blended with a combination of aphrodisiac botanicals with the goal of creating a complex yet smooth premium spirit. Although the slightly S & M style of the company’s website overplays the aphrodisiac aspect of the product a bit, ingredients including poppy, lotus licorice, dragon eye and lavender give the gin a mellow, slightly citrus flavor perfect for a slow seduction. (Read: leave whips and spiked collars at home).
Others in this new marketing arena have taken a more traditional approach to creating a functional adult drink. Pama, a pomegranate liquer is one of my favorite new spirits to hit the American market.
An elegant drink served over ice with a splash of soda, Pama combines the aphrodisiac benefits of pomegranate with quality craftsmanship and a sort of nouveau gourmet hipness.
Whatever your pleasure, you can certainly find it everywhere these days from nightclubs to brunch spots to fine dining – and you can have it with a side of vitamins, a shot of energy and prescription-free aphrodisiac boost.