January 22, 2013
Cocktail culture has a habit of looking to the past, even when the goal is inspiration for something new. Altar, a just-launched line of all-natural, non-alcoholic herbal martinis, looks all the way back to the birth of the cocktail, focusing on its apothecary roots, as well as its health and healing properties. Each Altar flavor--there are five: Aphrodisiac, Bliss, Chi, Chill, and Restore--is a blend of heirloom vegetables and fruit, internationally sourced single-estate teas, spices, and botanicals. They can be enjoyed on their own as a sort of fruity tea drink, mixed with a spirit, or as part of a more elaborate cocktail. I got an early sneak peek at Chi, a cherry juice and green tea hybrid, sweetened with honey. The cherry comes through in Chi's aroma and flavor, and is responsible for its vividly beautiful reddish purple hue (no artificial colors here). But it's the green tea that gives Chi its complexity. All at once you taste lemon, floral mint, and the zingy sharpness of ginger. Gin is one of the spirits recommended for shaking, straining, and sipping with Chi, and it seems like the perfect partner in crime as it melts right into the juniper-laced mixer. Following another common cocktail culture principle, Altar Herbal Martinis are expertly packaged. The simple, sophisticated bottle highlights each flavor's striking color, while the sparse label has just a hint of the apothecary vibe. They'll undoubtedly look right at home in restaurants, cocktail bars, juice bars, and spas, which is where you'll find Altar on the menu. Altar can also be purchased online or in select supermarkets ($20 for 750ml).
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