By Sarah Henry
Photo by Nicki Rosario
Tonic and tasty don’t always belong in the same sentence. But try rolling these around in your mouth:
- Cold Pressed Juice Elixir No. 1, a blend of kale, romaine, watermelon, cucumber, apple, and mint.
- Vegan Milk No. 2, an almond-cashew combo infused with cacao and enhanced by rose petal notes.
- Probiotic Kefir Water Tonic No. 2, a refreshing mix of watermelon, basil, lemon, and lime, along with immune-supporting active kefir cultures.
Leave it to the Living Apothecary, a new Oakland small-batch producer, to craft good-for-you elixirs that deliver on the delicious factor as well. These are living libations designed not just for cleanse devotees or the dairy-intolerant but for anyone who enjoys sipping something that is pleasing to the palate and beneficial to health.
Shari Stein Curry and Traci Hunt are the business partners behind this start-up natural foods company based at Oakland Kitchener, the Uptown commercial kitchen profiled in these pages last issue. They became pals while working at Rivoli, the upscale restaurant in North Berkeley. As resident mixologist, Curry had a reputation for making lip-smacking cocktails, while Hunt, a server, was exploring a passion for eating raw and alive foods. The two began kicking around an idea to fill a gap in the East Bay market for cold-pressed juices and came up with a product line of intriguing fresh juice blends, nut milks, and probiotic kefir waters (aka “proktails”).
Since launching their health drinks last summer at a Lafayette farmers’ market, Curry and Hunt have been working overtime to keep up with demand while also experimenting with new flavor pairings. The beverage line now includes more than a dozen cold-pressed juice combinations, eight kefir tonics, and eight vegan milk options.
The elixirs and tonics begin as fresh organic farmers’ market fruits and vegetables, which are then processed in a hydraulic Norwalk juicer, a machine that uses significant pressure and gentle grinding to extract vitamins, minerals, and enzymes intact, without added oxygen or heat, both of which can cause nutrient loss and flavor changes.
Curry’s finely honed palate can be found in all of Living Apothecary’s products, including their coconut-flax and ginger-vanilla nut milks, made by first soaking Big Tree Organic Farms almonds in cold water for several hours. The soaked nuts get puréed and then strained, with a final touch of sweetness added via agave syrup or dates. Nut milks from a box and pasteurized juices in plastic containers pale in comparison to these lively drops.
Products have a fridge life of three to seven days (though who could keep them that long?) and cost up to $8 for a 12-ounce bottle. For those who might experience sticker shock at the price, Curry has an unapologetic response. “There’s a lot of labor, love, top-quality ingredients, and flavor going into every bottle,” she explains. “It’s not just a drink: There’s nourishment and a host of health benefits in every sip.”
Living Apothecary’s nostalgia-inspired bottles and labels evoke an era when elixirs or tonics were a commonplace prescription for routine ailments. “The name suits our business; we’re really into the concept of an apothecary, an old-school holistic approach that evokes food as medicine,” says Curry. Cheers to that. ♣