From field to glass: How the search for healthier habits is beginning to transform the way we drink cocktails
There are still not many bars in the Algarve with menus featuring cocktails with vegetables, but the demand for these drinks has been progressively increasing, similar to what is happening in countries like Spain and the United States.
The reason may be linked to the search for a healthier lifestyle. “Nowadays, people put more thought into what they consume, and we take more care into choosing products which are low-sugar, fresh, locally sourced, organic and with a lower ecological footprint. That carried over to bars. Many ingredients that were only used in cooking are today used in cocktails,” says Ana Viegas, head bartender for six years at the Whale Pool Lounge at the Vila Vita Parc resort.
João Rodrigues, bartender for 15 years and current manager of the Senses bar in Faro, shares her opinion: “People are now eating healthier products, and this is transversal to cocktails. I also notice a big difference in the amount of alcohol consumed. Clients are asking for lower alcohol options and I think this is all interconnected,” he points out.
On the other hand, from the bartenders’ point of view, using vegetables allows for a wider range of flavour combinations and is another reason to unleash their imagination to create new signature cocktails. “There are plenty of ingredients that can be used in bars, almost just as they are used in kitchens. There are purées, syrups, food dyes, and we are always looking for different flavours and ingredients to make unique drinks,” states André Teixeira, bartender at the newly opened Ofélia, in Tavira, who has been working in the trade for six years.
W Lounge, W Algarve Hotel
In the Algarve, one of the places with the greatest variety of veggie cocktails is the W Algarve hotel, in Albufeira, which has several options on its menu.
“I always try to be versatile and combine different techniques and ingredients. For example, at the W Lounge, we focus on using natural ingredients, such as fennel, sea lavender, celery and mushrooms. At the Wet Deck, the pool bar, we serve cocktails with beetroot, carrot and turmeric,” says João Felicidade, who has been in the business for 11 years and is the hotel’s head mixologist.
For those looking to try their hand at making veggie cocktails, João Felicidade has some simple tips: “Do not go overboard with the mixtures, choose your ingredients carefully, use as little alcohol as possible and try to balance the flavours between acid, sweet and bitter. This last rule is essential.” It is also one he follows for his own recipes, like with the Celery cocktail, a best-seller at W Lounge, which brings together fennel, celery, ginger, lime and vodka.
Senses, Hotel EVA
But how simple is it to incorporate vegetables into cocktails? The answer is, not easy. “We can use them but always with other combinations; for example, combining beetroot, which has a more earthy flavour, with green apple.”
In João Rodrigues’ opinion, “the perfect blend includes a vegetable, a spirit and a fruit.” Of course, there are countless health benefits to consuming vegetables. With this in mind, the bartender at Senses created the VIT C, which perfectly illustrates his vision, by combining carrot, orange, white chocolate and gin. This cocktail was specially created to prolong the summer tan.
Whale Pool Lounge, Vila Vita Parc
Ana Viegas even says these cocktails are a way of encouraging the consumption of vegetables. “Cucumber, for example, is not a vegetable that many people like, but as we add several ingredients, we achieve a completely different flavour,” she says.
And one of the Whale Pool Lounge’s signature cocktails is precisely the Cucumis y Citrus, where the main ingredient is cucumber.
Here, they even use vegetables such as beetroot and red cabbage as natural food dyes rather than using artificial options.
In Tavira, all the recipes at Ofélia were inspired by verses from poems by Portuguese author Fernando Pessoa. The Medonho (Dreadful) cocktail, for example, includes ginger which, despite being a root, belongs to the group of foods that make up vegetables or legumes, characterised by being the edible part of a plant. In this case, according to bartender André Teixeira, “those who like balanced and even bitter flavours will love this cocktail”.
Discussing the future of the sector, all bartenders believe that the trend is to continue to invest in fresh, natural and locally produced ingredients, without resorting to artificial elements and in reducing the alcohol content.