Hot right now!

Kombucha, an ancient probiotic health tonic made from naturally fermented tea, has been gaining serious trend traction – first as a non-alcoholic, low-sugar digestive aid believed to have energizing and detoxifying properties and now as a cocktail ingredient.

Zoey Shamai, founder of Toronto-based kombucha company Tonica, started her business in her kitchen back in 2008. The company had to halt production last fall while seeking a new facility, but Tonica hits shelves country-wide again this month.

Containing raw digestive enzymes and all organic ingredients, Tonica is particularly high in gluconic acid, said to bind to toxins in the liver, helping to flush out your system. That means there could be real health benefits to kombucha cocktails.

“Along with the fact that it’s helping your liver cleanse itself as you drink, it’s lower in calories than other mixers, with low sugar content so you won’t have a hangover the next day. It’s just cleaner,” Shamai says.

Tonica’s website (tonicakombucha.com) lists cocktail recipes – both boozy and virgin – designed by mixologist Adrien Stein (Boot ‘n’ Bourbon, Rock Lobster, Mistura).

Besides its tasty acidity, “there are so many nutritional qualities to kombucha, and these days with health and wellness so prominent in everything we do, it’s a great selling point when offering drinks to guests,” Stein notes.

Robin Goodfellow, GM and barman at Ursa (942 Queen West, 416-536-8963, ursarestaurant.com), cultivates his own kombucha and fruit vinegars in an in-house fermentation room. It’s a sustainable and natural way to transform unused organics from the kitchen into drinks and dessert, he explains.

Kombucha adds complexity and zing to cocktails like the Clairmont (shiso-infused vodka, honey kombucha, citrus horchata and lemon juice, served hot or cold, $14) or offers a lively alternative to alcohol.

Up the street at Fonda Lola (942 Queen West, 647-706-9105, fondalola.ca), owner Andres Marquez incorporates kombucha into one of his signature margaritas (with tequila and smoked horchata, $10.50), reflecting the kitchen’s focus on healthful fare.

“Kombucha’s acidity along with the carbonation and salty sweetness can complement every aspect of a cocktail,” he says.

As health-conscious consumers seek alternatives to high-sugar mixers, expect to see more of this marvellous tea on cocktail lists. It’s nutritious, delicious and fermented – so hot right now.

drinks@nowtoronto.com | @s_parns

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