Serious Eats: Drinks

Book Review: Juicy Drinks by Valerie Aikman-Smith

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There's nothing more refreshing than a cocktail made with freshly squeezed juice. So I was eager to crack the cover of Juicy Drinks: Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Juices, Smoothies, Cocktails, and More by Valerie Aikman-Smith.

It's a pretty book. Aikman-Smith is a chef and food stylist who lives in Los Angeles and the photographs in the book (taken by Robyn Lehr) all have a fresh and colorful vibe that makes me think of sunny So Cal living. The book has a decidedly healthy bent, with far more attention paid to smoothies and other healthful tonics—How about a shot of carrot-wheatgrass elixir?

Despite their presence on the cover, the cocktail recipes seem to be a bit of an afterthought. There are instructions for how to make gazpacho cups into gazpacho shots and how to turn chilled cucumber juice into a gimlet. But in most cases, this just means adding alcohol, not composing a balanced cocktail in which the fresh juice has the opportunity to shine and the booze doesn't overpower delicate flavors.

The book should also come with a warning: Almost all of the recipes in this book require a juice extractor. There's not much in here that those of us without an expensive juicer can make. But if you already have a juicer and are looking for excuses to use it, this book will be a better fit for you.

I tested two drinks. An iced berry martini ended up more like a vodka spiked sorbet. I found the vodka flavor a bit too strong for the delicate berries, and had flashbacks to the fruity blended drinks of my college days.

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[Photograph: Robyn Lehr]

The rhubarb cooler was quite a bit better. This recipe required making a rhubarb ginger puree that—once cooled—was shaken with gin and dry vermouth before serving. This drink was decidedly pretty and pink—perfect for summer, a bachelorette party or baby shower. But the gin flavor was a bit too strong and I found myself wishing for a more balanced end result. The puree itself was tasty and could be used for a rhubarb bellini—it's really good drizzled onto non-alcoholic treats like yogurt, ice cream, and cornmeal cake.

In the end, Juicy Drinks disappointed me but it may not disappoint you, especially if you're armed with a good juicer and fonder of drinks that don't come spiked with the strong stuff.


About the Author: Anne Zimmerman is a writer in San Francisco Her first book, An Extravagant Hunger: The Passionate Years of M.F.K. Fisher, was published in March 2011. You can read more about her work here or here. Follow her on Twitter at @poeticappetite.

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