Nutraceutical-Enhanced Alcoholic Beverages Gaining Popularity

The idea of “better-for-you booze” might seem like an oxymoron, but brewers and distillers are toasting the emerging market for nutraceutical-enhanced alcoholic beverages.

By David Feder, RD, Contributing Editor

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You could say the idea of healthy booze began with the so-called “French Paradox.” When researchers found the French, who drink wine and enjoy rich cheeses and butter, had lower rates of cardiovascular disease rates than Americans, some reasoned that it must be something in the wine. It turns out they were correct, at least in part.

Today, a slew of compounds in wine are known to help protect against heart disease and cancer. Quercitin, ellagic acid, resveratrol and other polyphenolic compounds are examples of such ingredients. Ethanol itself is also known, in moderation, to help prevent heart disease. In fact, new research suggests a number of other heath benefits springing from both polyphenols and ethanol, including cold and flu prevention and the bactericidal action against the Streptococcus mutans bug, which is implicated as the cause of cavities.

 

While there are no intrinsic health components in a malt beverage, a splash of pomegranate can turn a wine cooler into a nutraceutical.

However, not everyone drinks alcohol, and even those who do might not necessarily desire to consume enough to derive sufficient physical benefit. Still, there’s no denying the value of such beneficial compounds.

Over the past several years, this has translated into a growth market for companies extracting the valuable wine phytochemicals and providing them to a rapidly growing healthy food, beverage and supplement industry. Companies such as San Joaquin Valley Concentrates (www.activin.com), Fresno, Calif.; Polyphenolics Inc. (www.polypheolics.com), Madera, Calif.; and Metagenics Inc. (www.metagenics.com), San Clemente, Calif. now form a part of this multimillion-dollar business.

Add-ins

Infusing nutraceutical compounds or botanical extracts into alcohol makes sense. Even up until the beginning of past century, pharmacists often made medicines in the same manner. Pharmaceutical labs today often use ethanol in similar, albeit more complicated, lab-controlled processes.

Last year, p.i.n.k. Spirits Co. (www.pinkspirits.com), New York, rolled out its line of infused spirits. The company’s six products in the line include vodka, tequila, rum, sake, white whiskey and gin, all laced with guarana and caffeine. Guarana, a berry grown in the northern regions of Brazil and Venezuela, contains a caffeine-like compound called guaranine. However, its effects are said to be more “even,” without caffeine’s jittery side effects.

As the “first company in the world to create ultra-premium alcohol that does not make the consumer tired,” the p.i.n.k. line was created “to enable consumers to enjoy their favorite cocktails while experiencing the benefits of caffeine and guarana,” according to David Mandell, president and CEO.

 

The p.i.n.k. line was created to enable consumers to enjoy their favorite cocktails while experiencing the benefits of caffeine and guarana.

The challenge, however, is that guarana is dark colored and has a tart, almost bitter flavor. “It took nearly two years to create a formula that would not compromise the integrity of our vodka,” explains Mandell. “Working with Clarendon Flavor Engineering (www.clarendonflavors.com), Louisville, Ky., the p.i.n.k. Spirits Co. developed a unique process to extract the all-natural functional components of the guarana berry, while removing its native dark color and tart flavor.” The result is a flavorless blend of caffeine and guarana, which the company infuses into an ultra-premium Dutch vodka base following distillation.

The new San Francisco-based distillery Lotus Vodka (www.lotusvodka.com) launched its core brand vodka enhanced with B vitamins — allegedly in such concentration that two drinks provides all your daily B needs. “Allegedly” because legally the company cannot make any such vitamin or health claims about its product. Lotus recently followed with its Blue Lotus brand vodka containing caffeine, taurine and guarana.

Green Drinks

The organic side of the health equation has made big leaps. Although organic wines have been around for years, only lately have makers of vodka, gin, whiskey and rum caught on to the marketing — and possibly health-related — positives of going organic.

 

It’s “London Dry” and a product of England, but Maison Jomere/Organic Spirit’s gin wears the USDA organic seal.  Sometimes “better-for-you” is about what's been left out as opposed to what's been infused in.

Maison Jomere Ltd./Organic Spirits Co. (www.maisonjomere.com), Plaistow, N.H., pioneered the production of organic whiskey from its 350-year-old distillery. Research is suggesting there could be some important health benefits to people who drink single malt whiskies. Single malts contain the phytochemical ellagic acid, studied as a powerful anti-cancer antioxidant. In fact, whiskeys have more ellagic acid than red wine.

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