Healthy holiday cocktails

Dr. Manny and the Medicine Hunter, Chris Kilham, visit The Cocktail Bodega in New York City to find cocktails that will boost your mood, immunity and libido


Once again it’s the holiday season, and for the fourth year in a row, Dr. Manny Alvarez and I have decided to ring in the season with healthy cocktails. This time, we hit Cocktail Bodega, a funky little corner smoothie and cocktail bar on Chrystie Street in New York City’s Lower East Side.

Manny and I try to find cocktails that offer some sort of health-redeeming value in addition to the mood-modifying effects of the alcohol. At Cocktail Bodega, we focused on three cocktails that helped us to meet our objective.

Our first concoction was a green, swampy-looking smoothie/alcohol combination called The Bodega Cleanse. A blend of Grey Goose vodka, agave nectar, Anjou pear, kale, fresh aloe, kiwi fruit and flaxseed, the Bodega Cleanse was thick enough to stand a spoon in it, and reminded me of algae bloom in a standing body of water. The cleansing ingredients in the drink were the aloe gel, cut from thick, fresh aloe leaves, and flax seed, which provides a lot of stimulating fiber to the digestive tract. The kale, Anjou pear and kiwi fruits also provide good fiber, so this cocktail met its requirement for accuracy in labeling.

After our green, cleansing drink, we turned to the Gingersnap Ginseng Gin, which contained Plymouth Gin, apple juice, ginger, bee pollen, vitamin C, and a curious herbal formula dubbed “memory enhancer.” Bee pollen enhances energy and stamina, and ginger is antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and good for digestion. Vitamin C, of course, is an essential nutrient, and the mysterious memory enhancer contained many of my favorite herbs, including Rhodiola, Schisandra, maca, and eleuthero. These are all adaptogens, meaning they help you to adapt to mental and physical stresses of all kinds.  Adaptogens also impart energy and stamina, are good for enhancing immune function, and boost mojo, or libido. We were on solid healthy ground with the Gingersnap Ginseng Gin.

Manny and I finished our stay with the Joint’s Fiber Picante, a mix of Avion Silver Tequila, agave nectar, celery juice, salt, serrano chili, and an herbal combination rich in Panax ginseng. It’s not at all clear to me what the cocktail was supposed to do for my joints, but the mixture was potent, and the serrano chili made the drink hot as burning coals. The Panax ginseng is good for the brain and for stamina.

Manny and I left victorious or at least woozy, another few holiday cocktails under our belts, a few healthy ingredients ingested, and another year of health news stories blurrily flashed past us in the fast departing year.

A word of caution: Do not try to duplicate what Dr. Manny and I do on TV, especially when it comes to “healthy holiday cocktails.” Don’t be fooled. These are potent drinks, and we are professionals. We’ve eaten and drunk things that no reasonable person would go near. Take care, and have a wonderful holiday season.

Chris Kilham is a medicine hunter who researches natural remedies all over the world, from the Amazon to Siberia. He teaches ethnobotany at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he is Explorer In Residence. Chris advises herbal, cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies and is a regular guest on radio and TV programs worldwide.  His field research is largely sponsored by Naturex of Avignon, France. Read more at

Chris Kilham is a medicine hunter who researches natural remedies all over the world, from the Amazon to Siberia. Chris advises herbal, cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies, is a regular guest on radio and TV programs worldwide, and is the author of fifteen books. Read more at