rijuice
Steve Kale

Here we are halfway through the summer, just long enough to have settled into a routine when it comes to a go-to warm weather cocktail. But, if you need to shake up what’s going into your glass – either at the bar or at home – try looking outside the aisles at the liquor store.

When it comes to cocktails, choosing a liquor is the logical starting point, but that’s only part of the golden cocktail ratio (which goes two parts liquor, one part sour, one part sweet). Why not spice up your cocktail by starting with the sweet and sour? The answer to both fresh, bright, new cocktail flavors, and how to deal with the after effects of too many cocktails, might be closer than you think.

Rijuice – the Lancaster-based organic cold-pressed juice company – can turn even the most clueless cocktail maker into a clever-looking mixologist. Purchase a few bottles of juice from the new stand at Central Market, Moira Records at Lazarus Juice Bar, Stauffer’s of Kissel Hill and many other outlets, and you’ll immediately be blending flavors that probably never occurred to you to use in your cocktail. Be sure to save a bottle of that Yugen – containing pear, mint, cucumber, kale and other greens – those particular ingredients are perfect for the morning after – especially pear.

Spinach, kale, beets, carrots, rhubarb, ginger. These may not be your typical choices when it comes to flavors to boost your cocktails, but flavor is key for co-founder Cullen Farrell.

“When I started rijuice I was solely obsessed with the health benefits. I would be almost tyrannically preachy at farmer’s markets. I was exhausting myself and it wasn’t registering (with customers),” says Farrell. “People in Lancaster wanted flavor. We started to be flavor-first. It’s gotta taste good. We’re messing with fun flavors…it’s getting people closer to the natural side.”

At first glance, the cold-pressed organic juice from the health-conscious company and alcohol might seem to not be a good mix, but if you’re already imbibing why not do your body a favor and get a blast of vitamins, too?

For the first two or three years of rijuice’s extistence, Farrell and co. were hesitant to mix the business of organic juice with the pleasures of happy hour, because of how people might respond to a detox company mixing with an intoxicant like alcohol. (Although, may I say, genius business move!) But he soon got over that.

“I like cocktails. I’ve always been interested in creating different sensations with flavor and fruits,” says Farrell. “For me, it’s more like a breakthrough. I think our juices can enhance the cocktail culture. For bars that aren’t into mixology, (rijuice) can help them do it a little more. (It’s) like, ‘Wow, I just threw in strawberry, lemon, lime and basil. Four or five ingredients that I didn’t have to press myself.’ (rijuice is an) ingredient like Red Bull, but it’s healthy. I don’t feel guilty about it anymore.”

And, of course, green juice isn’t the only green that the small business owners are concerned with. Recently, Farrell came across a Wall Street Journal article proclaiming 2016 to be the year of the cocktail with sales of mixed drinks and spirits surpassing beer and wine in restaurants

“If we want to create a sustainable business, and there’s a wave coming, we should be there.”

This summer we wrote about the tiki trend coming to Lancaster and local bartenders are starting to play around with rijuice as another ingredient to experiment with. Steve Wood, bartender at the Pressroom Restaurant and Bar (look out for a gin and rijuice passion fruit tiki cocktail called the Blue Saturn hitting the menu soon) and Jordan Young, lead mixologist at Thistle Finch Distillery have both experimented with cocktails using rijuice.

“As a bartender, working with rijuice is a great way to introduce intricate flavors into a cocktail without sourcing often expensive and difficult to process ingredients,” says Wood. “It is also a way to support a local business that has a keen eye on sustainability and a diehard commitment to quality.”

And, of course, since we are talking about an ingredient like juice, and not the base of a cocktail like a liquor, rijuice works for both morning-after smoothies or mocktails.

“Mocktails are a market that not a lot of people are looking at,” says Farrell. “I think (mocktails) are really important because it shows that you care about the rest of the menu that you’re offering people. Some people don’t want to drink alcohol, obviously. It shows that you still treat it like a beverage that you care about.”

One obvious benefit of the mocktail: no hangover. If you have overindulged, rijuice has an answer for that too. They’ve partnered with Moira Records at Lazarus Juice Bar where they stock the full line of standard juices, one-off weekly specials and even a supply of ginger.

If you do happen to be in throes of a particularly bad hangover, visit Jauny Santos at Moira where he’s not only blending sounds from the turntables but blending fruits, vegetables and rijuice behind the juice bar.

“We get the most affordable fresh, pesticide-free produce from local farmers,” says Santos as he hands me a special smoothie made with bananas, acai, pineapple, chopped almond hemp bars and some of rijuice’s Good Mood.

Ask for a shot of ginger, too. And in no time you’ll be ready to start it all over again.

..............................................

BE THE BARTENDER: try making some of this easy cocktails at home 

Sipping on gin and (ri)juice

Rijuice is a great ingredient to step up your cocktail game at home. Bartender Steve Wood suggests a simple way to include rijuice in a cocktail: 1.5 ounces of (preferably clear) spirits, 2.5 ounces of juice topped with a splash of ginger ale or soda. Here are some more recipes that you can use to make flavorful and healthy cocktails at home.  

rijuice Vesper courtesy of rijuce’s Cullen Farrell

Ingredients:

2 oz gin (use something very dry, a London style gin, or anything low on botanicals)

2 oz vodka

0.5-1 oz of Rijuice “A Million Bucks” flavor

Method:

You want this to served very cold. Put it in ice and shake it like you were serving James Bond, but a healthy version. You can make it either an apple martini or a green martini.

Pro tip: rijuice makes great ice cubes! Particularly in the summer, I always have a tray of Dear Summer (watermelon, lemon, mint) turned into ice cubes. 

rijuice Manhattan - courtesy of rijuce’s Cullen Farrell

Ingredients:

2 oz rye whiskey

1/2 teaspoon of rijuice’s Red Rose

3 dashes Angostura bitters

1/4 oz sweet vermouth

Sunny Day  - courtesy of Jordan Young of Thistle Finch

Ingredients:

2 oz rijuice’s Sunshine Daydream

1.5 oz Market Alley Gin

0.5 oz honey

splash ginger beer

fresh mint

Method:

Combine rijuice, gin, and honey in glass or tin with ice and stir vigorously. Pour into favorite copper mug or tall glass and top with ginger beer. Stir and garnish with fresh mint. 

Pro tip: The ginger and mint featured in this cocktail will sooth the pains of a hangover. 

recent stories

Mike Andrelczyk was a reporter for Fly After 5. He's a graduate of Penn State and lives with his wife Stacey in Strasburg. He likes disc golf (@sendmeadiscpic on Instagram) and writing poems and short stories. Follow on Twitter @MikeAndrelczyk