Living in a society where people seem to pop a pill for anything that ails them, it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t always this way. In fact, cocktails with medicinal properties, or apothecary cocktails, used to be mixed up for individuals suffering from a variety of physical issues. Anything from a common cold to a vicious stomach flu could be cured with a cocktail.
Though these apothecary cocktails seemed to fade away as pharmaceutical companies started to appear, they’re showing up more and more again. We’re sure part of this is because what is “old” invariably becomes “new” again, but also because of the public’s rising desire to seek out healthier, wholesome alternatives to our chemical-based lifestyle.
As apothecary cocktails become more popular, there’s not just a greater interest in making them at home – there are actually bars that have sections of their menus dedicated to them, and some that are even built completely around the concept. It’s kind of like healthy juice and smoothie bars but with an alcoholic twist.
For example, Apothéke in New York City is completely apothecary-themed and is inside a former opium den. They have a menu of over 250 specialty cocktails and it’s divided into categories like Stress Relievers, Pain Killers, Heath and Beauty, Stimulants, Aphrodisiacs and Pharmaceuticals. All of their cocktails are prepared with local and organic produce from area markets or picked from their rooftop herb garden.
If you’re interested in learning more about apothecary cocktails, there is a great new book that just came out called “Apothecary Cocktails: Restorative Drinks from Yesterday and Today” by Warren Bobrow. Bobrow is the genius behind the Cocktail Whisperer blog and his book features 75 traditional and newly created recipes for medicinally-themed cocktails. He talks about the top apothecary liqueurs, bitters, and tonics and discusses healing powers of various herbs, flowers, and spices. It’s a perfect way to learn about the rich history of apothecary cocktails and bring them into this century.
Did you grow up with any secret family apothecary cocktail recipes? Do you have a foolproof concoction that always makes you feel better? Share your secrets.