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In the Spirit

Innovative drinks and elixirs give imbibing a healthy boost.

Bellion vodka is the world’s first “functional” spirit. Its mad scientist-esqueinventor, Indian-American entrepreneur Harsha Chigurupati, spent $35 million and over a decade devising the holy grail of happy hour: healthy liquor. He claims his firm’s proprietary formula, NTX (say it: no-tox) can indemnify your liver against the ravages of overindulgence, thanks to ingredients like an anti-inflammatory derived from licorice root. One of its own studies claimed biomarkers for liver damage were 93 percent lower in tipsy testers when they sipped Bellion versus a conventional vodka. The U.S. government isn’t convinced, however, as Chigurupati is yet to see his claims endorsed by any official certification. But he isn’t alone. There’s a burgeoning business in low or no-alcohol drinks aiming to combine good health and good times.

PureWine: The Magic Wand? 

Take PureWine, whose products act like a Brita filter for Bordeaux. Their filtration devices claim to remove hangover-causing impurities from red wine, including sulfites and histamines. Inventor David Meadows (based in Grapevine, Texas, naturally) offers two products: The Wand153, which users stir through a glass of wine, and the Wave153, which attaches to a bottle like a nozzle to purify the contents as you pour. A former pharma executive, Meadows worked on the patented technology in response to his own headaches and sore throats when drinking red wine. He claims he’s one of the 35 percent of U.S. adults who suffer allergic reactions to Cabernet Sauvignon and other red wines.  

“Histamines are produced during the primary fermentation process, when yeasts digest the proteins found in the skins of red grapes,” he explains, “Nine European countries actually have regulated the amount of histamine permitted to be in wines imported into their country.”  Some people can metabolize the histamine in wine, beer, and other foods and have no adverse reactions, yet too much histamine can lead to inflammation in the lungs, nose, and skin. 

Sans Alcohol, Please 

Then again, you could opt to solve the issue by avoiding alcohol entirely, thanks to a new category of distilled, non-alcoholic spirits. These are botanical tinctures, akin to gin, which even confirmed teetotalers can enjoy. Seedlip’s UK inventor Ben Branson created the category and the company is now part-owned by drinks giant Diageo. Rivals include Ceders “alt-gin” from South Africa and the amaro-style MeMento. 

Cedar's non-alcoholic "Alt-Gin" from South Africa.
A creative cocktail from London's First Aid Box.

Martinis and Wheatgrass 

This health drive has hit craft cocktail bars, too. Many of them have responded by tweaking menus, adding lower ABV drinks (known as shims), or recipes with health-boosting ingredients. You can sip an ice-cold martini at New York’s Dimes with a shot of wheatgrass, while London’s Farmacy features drinks with anti-oxidant properties. If you want to make them at home, snap up a copy of the book, Doctor’s Orders, by Chris Edwards and Dave Trengenza, the duo behind London’s First Aid Box. The tome features drinks which are also true tonics, with recipes aimed at ailments from easing pain to curing a hangover.