03 March 2012

The Tonic Bar

Posted in Articles

The Concept of the Tonic Bar

A tonic bar features a choice of beverage, as a medium, into which a fluid extract will be added. Our first tonic bar event took place at Cafe La Vie in Santa Cruz on January 16, 2008. They have been held at a few wellness centers since in events combining fundraising, networking, and bringing attention to health in a positive, interactive way.
Starting with the beverage, various fruit waters (i.e. mango, blueberry, lemon-lime, or any combination of various fruit flavors) can be used. These fruit waters can be tart, slightly sweet, or, again, mixed with any combination to taste. A few drops of stevia in a quart or a half gallon of any mix will change the flavor profile to sweeter. Stevia must be used carefully or it will be too sweet.

Another type of beverage is a fruit kefir culture. It is somewhat like a kombucha culture, yet different. I personally like the particular milder characteristics of a fruit kefir. The culture is derived from opuntia cactus. A natural complement for this is agave syrup. Both share the same regional geography, in this case, Mexico. The culture is made in a 1-gallon glass jar; you can add lemons, cut and squeezed, if you wish, to marinate in the mix. Finally, fresh figs could be added (3-4 of them), or dried goji, dragonfruit, longan, blueberries, etc.

For a one-week culturing, loosen the lid slightly after shaking well each day. A light effervescent beverage, after filtering (the cactus culture can settle to the bottom of the jar), results that can be decanted into a nice glass jar and stored in the refrigerator. The culture itself is kept and put in a container with some water. Leave out a little while (1 day) and then put in the refrigerator for next time. Make sure to use a durable storage bag to ensure that the culture can be re-used.
The culturing can go on for a week, and can also be quite tasty. The culture metabolizes the sugars in agave nectar and fruits creating a pleasant tasting mild beverage that is a refreshing digestive “aperitif.” Added to the fruit culture could be a little ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, etc. Experimentation is encouraged. The beverage is hearty and healthy (in supporting beneficial intestinal flora). What we have then are fruit waters and cultured tonics as two kinds of beverage options for your tonic bar event.

Herbal Fluid Extracts in the Tonic Bar Concept

Herbal fluid extracts (also known as tinctures) range from single herbs/spices from around the world (our Belle Dulce) to complex formulas involving nearly 50 components (Land & Sea). These are primarily concentrated into 80 proof (40%) alcohol of various kinds (we use grain alcohol or potato vodka with purified water at the required proportion) to preserve the extract.
The fluid extracts (usually 1 full dropper) can be used for many purposes, especially for plant mineralization of the body (e.g. Land & Sea and the boutique cultures—limited runs of small batches—of sea plant extracts). The fluid extracts are added either singly or in combination to the beverage medium. Remember that a particular beverage is generally tonifying and expresses symbolically certain properties or mode of action. These are part of a longer-term strategy that could involve a healthcare practitioner.The fluid extracts in the beverage medium provide a glimpse or a feeling of the direction the herbal-beverage properties take. Savor them all and use as needed in water, foods, desserts, beverages, teas, smoothies, soups, dressings, dips, spreads, etc. Putting in soups or hot tea evaporates off the alcohol.

These tonics can be used as a pick-me-up or a relaxant. The tonifying or adaptogenic properties are usually good for most people. Remember that each person is unique biochemically and has his or her own predispositions. Specific organs (kidney, liver), systems (circulatory, digestive), or conditions (allergies, colds) can be helped with fluid extracts. The effects can work physically and/or psychologically, and can improve our spirit and well-being.

A tonic bar event is intensely interactive, animating, and fun, especially with a good crowd. It challenges us to find specific biochemical keys in different beverage medium choices for each person at that particular time. Everyone obviously knows themselves best, and it is the work of the herbalist to enhance their well-being so that ultimately joy, happiness, and laughter become the best medicine of all.