The latest healthy imbibing trend comes straight from the leaves of that prickly plant so many of us keep on our window sills for kitchen mishaps and post-sun relief. Aloe vera juice, by itself or infused into a spirit, is not only good for your skin, it’s also said to possess digestive, liver and immunity-boosting benefits. Feel good about these succulent sips.
Straight aloe can be bitter and difficult to work with, says Chicago bartender Angela Lovell, who created this cocktail while at now-closed Tinker to Evers. But in liqueur form, it shows delicate and round flavors of melon, cucumber and citrus. “While we went for the full herbal, floral explosion with this cocktail, this liqueur shows really beautifully with simple and subtle combinations like a touch of gin or vodka and a dash of interesting bitters, like orange or grapefruit,” says Lovell.
Originally created by general manager and beverage guru Tyler Mitchell at Chloe in Washington, D.C., for a guest requesting a zero-proof pairing for one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, cobia crudo, this drink proved so popular the restaurant has reworked it with Mahón gin as a secret off-menu option for those in the know. “I really appreciate the texture of aloe, so I prefer to leave the cocktail unstrained,” says Mitchell. When you’re working with aloe, be sure to taste it first before adding sweetener to the drink, as every brand has different sweetness levels, he cautions.
An aloe vera cordial made in-house gives this cocktail from Komodo in Miami a deep flavor with a hint of sourness, says Groot Hospitality corporate bar manager Karol Ansaldi. “Considering the aloe’s healing properties, it’s supposed to represent a geisha entertaining and taking care of her guests,” he says. Aloe’s bitter flavor is best offset with strong fruity flavors like grapes, berries or citrus, Ansaldi believes.
“Aloe adds a softness, a terroir that’s not overly demanding from the rest of the ingredients but brings florality and aromatics, boosting whatever it’s mixed with,” says Eden Laurin, the managing partner of The Violet Hour who also supervises the drinks program at Dove’s Luncheonette, where this drink appeared on the menu. She says it’s economical, easy to work with and healthful. She also suggests reducing it into a syrup, flavoring it with rhum agricole and honey and mixing it with gin, rum or mezcal.
The co-owner and head of operations at The Roosevelt Room in Austin, Dennis Gobis, created this derivation of the Missionary’s Downfall. Aloe is “a lengthener that ties all of the ingredients together and provides a touch of dilution to round off the harsh edges of some of the other ingredients while adding a cooling effect,” he says. And the high water concentration in aloe juice means that you’ll usually need to shake or stir for a shorter amount of time to avoid overdiluting the cocktail.