Quenching Thirst and Boosting Health with Functional Drinks

Not that long ago, terms such as “functional foods” and “gut health” weren’t very common and mostly limited to health food stores. However, the idea of wholesome foods providing significant health benefits has made its way into consumer consciousness in a big way. Functional foods have evolved to include everything from yogurts with probiotics for gut health to cold-pressed juices claiming mental acuity and immunity benefits.


While the concept of functional foods affects all aspects of bar and restaurant menus, the biggest opportunity of late lies in the beverage category. Nutrient-dense ingredients such as blueberries, carrots, beets, kale, and turmeric are finding their natural home in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.


Bars, cafés, and restaurants across the country are taking notice of this new trend and responding with a variety of healthy beverages. One of the fastest-growing categories of functional beverages is cocktails – what’s not to love about delicious and refreshing adult beverages with added health benefits? These functional cocktails feature a wide range of nutritious ingredients, such as fresh-pressed beet juice, coconut activated charcoal, matcha powder, and more.


Kombucha, a slightly bubbly and tangy fermented tea, features probiotics and good bacteria for digestive health benefits and is quickly becoming a crowd favorite. While kombucha is already well-known in the non-alcoholic world, it is now being incorporated into cocktails, blended with tasty ingredients such as lime juice, brown sugar syrup, fresh pomegranate juice, and rum. Kombucha is an excellent foundation for a functional cocktail because it provides just enough sweetness to enhance the flavor of the liquor without overpowering it.


Amazingly, functional drinks are one of the rare trends that’s equally popular with four generations of consumers. Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Z all show significant interest in these beverages – and the functional foods trend in general. That’s likely because functional foods align so well with the personalized health trend: a Boomer may look for ingredients that help restore heart health, while a Millennial might seek out the same ingredients as a preventative measure.


For all their health benefits, functional beverages are largely driven to succeed by the enhancement of their flavor experience. Whether spiked with vodka, tequila, or gin or left non-alcoholic, these drinks support a wide variety of exciting flavor combinations, such as carrot-fennel-ginger, spinach-red beet-nectarine, or orange-turmeric-agave. In fact, it doesn’t matter how much function your products boast if your customers aren’t impressed with the flavor profiles. The adventurousness of modern consumers means that restaurants and others in the beverage industry should feel free to experiment with unexpected flavor blends to create the fun, delicious, and functional drinks that are gaining popularity this year.