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Winter has arrived and noses are running, throats are getting raspy, and sneezes abound. But don’t reach for the cough syrup just yet—bartenders are pilfering the apothecary cabinet and researching age-old recipes to concoct drinks that just might have some health benefits. Here are three places to imbibe drinks that claim to mitigate your maladies.
1324 H St. NE
When you consider Swiss remedies, your first thought may be of a man with a horn shouting about cough drops from a mountain. Yet herbal recipes are common in Swiss cuisine, so Stable decided to add “Medicinal Concoctions” to their menu. Co-owner Silvan Kraemer explains, “We were thinking back to how it all started,” noting that many types of alcohol such as absinthe and amari were created for curative purposes. Stable lists the ostensible benefits alongside each drink, which include a flu remedy and a stress reliever. Their most popular is the “Immune Booster,” with bourbon and supposed cure-all raspberry schnapps.
922 N St. NW
Basing a cocktail menu around traditional healing recipes can be challenging. “A lot of Chinese medicinal ingredients are very, very hard to get, if not illegal in the United States,” says Tiger Fork beverage director Ian Fletcher. “It was more trying to design them around the herbs we could purchase here.” Working with a collection of about 90 different kinds of herbs, nuts, berries, twigs, and barks, their traditional Chinese medicine, or “TCM,” cocktails draw inspiration from actual remedies. The “Bird Market” is based on the jade windscreen formula that targets the immune system. Other cocktails seek to alleviate anxiety or serve as an aphrodisiac, though Fletcher notes that you’d have to take these remedies every day to feel a difference. “You’re not going to feel anything instantaneously.” Unless, of course, you opt for the fatigue-fighting “Eight O’clock Light Show,” which provides an immediate kick with nearly as much caffeine as two cups of coffee.
1201 K St. NW
“I don’t really like to label cocktails as wellness cocktails because it’s a bit of an oxymoron,” admits Alexandra Bookless, beverage director of American Son. But at D.C.’s Eaton Hotel, where American Son is located, wellness is a priority, so the bar staff has experimented with traditional holistic ingredients. Chinese five spice tea, which is allegedly antibacterial and antimicrobial, is crafted in house for the “Passion Fruit” cocktail on the brunch menu. There’s also a bit of turmeric, which Bookless says “is used for a whole slew of things, including arthritis, heartburn, various kinds of pain, stomach pain, joint pain, headaches. It was also used a lot if you had bronchitis, colds. More than that, we just really like the flavor of it.”