An Introduction to Functional Drinks
Guest BLOG post from Al Volante
“Alessio aka “the Alchemist” deﬁnes himself as a hybrid between a cocktail mixologist and a biohacker. After spending nearly a decade in the hospitality industry between Italy, UK and Australia, his career took an unexpected twist. He became CEO of its own health food company, and with that a journey of discovery started, falling in love every day more with innovative healthy and functional ingredients.
Thanks to his extensive cocktail background, it didn’t take him very long to realise the possible applications of such ingredients, and surprisingly enough that time was in perfect serendipity with the very ﬁrst alcohol-free spirits hitting the market.
So he went down the rabbit hole, trying to integrate natural superfoods, mushrooms extracts, probiotics, Australian natives, kombuchas & vitamins with the very few spirits the market was oﬀering in 2018.
Fast forward to today, the alcohol freedom movement is not a niche anymore, and despite many failures, he’s delivering amazing functional cocktails, introducing them to the public at the Pines Cronulla as Beverage Manager, collaborating with some incredible innovative brands, has completed his ﬁrst recipe book “The Conscious Sippers Club” featuring a few other great mixologists, and is on the road to launch his very own masterclasses.
His rules for what a functional cocktail is are simple: No alcohol or added sugar, using at least 2 out of 3 ingredients between Australian Native, Probiotic and Superfood. That’s it, and he’s done all the research for you to ﬁnd the ones that can ﬁt better in cocktails, considering texture, solubility, ﬂavour and nutritional value.
His passion to merge the world of high-performance humans with the complexity and experience around cocktails fuels him to keep researching the weirdest, healthiest, deﬁnitely unpronounceable-at-times ingredients, and he looks forward to keeping working and inspiring sober rookies and veterans how to use cocktails for health and longevity.
What is a functional beverage?
Let’s put it simply, it is a cocktail created with ingredients that serve a function rather than just make you loose, dance and talk s**t.
In my personal view, they could be alcoholic as well, but I’d rather keep them alcohol-free, as low in sugar as possible, and mostly vegan.
What kind of ingredients are we talking about?
The list is very large, from supplements to superfoods, CBD extracts, medicinal mushrooms, probiotics, Australian natives, pretty much anything that you would use to improve a particular area of your life and that can be used skillfully to create sexy, delicious cocktails.
My basic rule of thumb when creating a functional cocktail is to make sure that I’m using at least 2 out of three between probiotics, superfoods and Australian natives, and this rule is present in all my creations.
Here I’ll share with you just a few simple ingredients and replacements that I’ve found extremely well suited to be mixed, and also a few of my best recipes for you to try at home.
Goes without saying, that like in any cocktail you want to have a base with a spirit and/or a liqueur, and some companies have produced unbelievable spirits, and if you’re reading this you are most likely aware of some of them.
From the world’s ﬁrst alcohol-free spirit Seedlip to the Australian native based spirits ALTD, the coastal-inspired Seadrift, the juniper based Ceder’s and the impossibly crafted Lyre’s Spirits, the list is becoming longer every day.
These are your bases, your keynotes of the drink, the layers of diﬀerent botanical extracts. Sometimes ﬂavours are more delicate than alcoholic spirits, so it’s important not to cover their notes too much.
Any cocktail will then require a sweetener, and I have found three main options that make for a great substitute for the old sugar syrup. My favourite sugar syrup replacement is without a doubt the range of bio-fermented probiotics from Henry Blooms. These are probiotic “syrups”, sugar-free and thanks to the carrier used, Glycerine, they add the same texture and viscosity you would try to get out of sugar syrup.
Some of their easy to use ﬂavours include coconut water, lychee, cranberry, marine collagen and hemp.
Another great alternative is the kombucha syrups from Soda Press Co, with less than a gram of sugar and a billion probiotic per serve are a great tool for a functional mixologist, with three ﬂavours to choose from, original, zesty ginger and passion fruit mandarin. The third option, in case none of the above works for you is to use glycerine instead of syrup 1:1 ratio, it doesn’t have the same beneﬁts but at least you’re still removing useless sugars from your drink.
Then you’ll need the balancing ingredient for the sweetness, lime or lemon have always been the obvious choice in cocktails, as their acidity helps in masking the ethanol burn of alcohol, but as we’re alcohol-free we can use softer ingredients, like apple cider vinegar, verjuice or raspberry vinegar, depending on what ﬂavour you’re going for.
These ingredients will create your base for any cocktail, from there you can build up, depending on if you’re going for a shaken martini cocktail, a spritz or a highball.
Now it’s time to get creative. You can use cold brew teas, sugar-free functional soft drinks and energy drinks, kombucha, switchels, alcohol-free wines to make your drinks long and more diluted, or add an extra layer with sugar-free jams and spreads.
To ﬁnish oﬀ you can add an extra layer of functionality, and to do that I’ve found some ingredients that are second to none for their solubility in drinks, from the Gold Coast-based company Switch Nutrition.
If you require a cocktail with a very powerful boost in health, their Vitality Greens contain over 30 diﬀerent ingredients including super greens, medicinal mushrooms, enzymes, probiotics and natural superfoods.
If you need a boost, something to energise me and help me burning some fat, I use their Thermal Blend, with a generous 250mg of caﬀeine per serve, Bioperine, L-Carnitine, Green tea extract and Vitamin B6 & C.
Lastly, if you need to look after your adrenal glands, relaxing your body and mind, the Adrenal Blend is a delicious and highly soluble blend of Ashwagandha, Magnesium and Zinc, great for a relaxing drink at the end of the day.
On top of that, I often like to add LyfeCykel Medicinal Mushroom extracts, CBD oil and Australian Superfood Co extracts.
Thanks to Al Volante for this in-depth intro to functional drinks.
You can follow him @mindbodyspirits_ on instagram for more inspiration.