By Chef Martin Lopez
What if I could offer you a variety of event-friendly beverages that are fun, interactive, healthful, and delicious?
Read on to learn about exciting, alcohol-free blended drinks that can step boldly outside the norm, add color to your events, AND prove beneficial for your guests and your meeting budget.
Got your attention? Let’s talk about what I call “Smart Drinks.”
Drink to your health
Many people are taking a healthier approach to their entire nutritional intakes, paying closer attention to what they drink as well as what they eat. It seems younger generations are less interested in alcoholic and soda-type beverages, spurring industry leaders, event planners and culinary staff to come up with new non-alcoholic drinks for their events.
Staying well hydrated can make a difference in your health, your work performance, and even your mental attitude. Choosing power beverages such as water, milk, juice, and blended “smart drinks” – instead of sodas or alcohol – can help you maintain a healthy weight and quench your thirst. “Smart drinks” are made from nutritious and delicious blends of fruit, vegetables, herbs, juices and other natural ingredients. And we easily can extend their healthful benefits to situations where you are planning and setting up an event.
The choice of “smart drinks” vs. alcoholic drinks is not just a novelty for our young, vibrant social culture. These drinks also can benefit event planners by eliminating the need for alcohol permits. Your events can be held in a wider range of locales since you’re not relying on traditional hotel, nightclub, or bar venues that serve alcohol.
“Smart” beverages also can help your bottom line, as their cost is much lower than that of alcoholic drinks. In short, these beverages are a logical alternative because they are healthier, less expensive, and safer for your guests. They’re appealing enough to attract attendees’ attention, but they eliminate the risk of guest overindulgence.
They’re also easy to tailor to changing seasons. Especially appropriate for spring and summer, they take advantage of a great diversity of fresh or frozen fruits, herbs and vegetables.
What goes in
Some “smart drinks” have added amino acids or vitamins, but my favorites are all-natural, made with nuts, sun-dried or fresh fruits; and other ingredients such as soy milk, almond milk, skim or whole dairy milk, and natural sweeteners. These sweeteners can include honey; Yacon syrup or agave nectar; fruit juice; coconut water; or fresh fruit, all of which can increase energy and boost brain function.
Another important member of the “smart drink” family is the “agua fresca” beverage, a light, non-alcoholic drink served by street vendors and eateries in central America and the Caribbean – especially Mexican cafés, restaurants and taquerias. Agua fresca drinks are made by combining fresh fruits, grains, seeds, and even flowers with sugar and water.
You can find ready-made agua fresca beverages any time of the year at Latin import and specialty stores, in bottled varieties and instant mixes. And during the warmer spring and summer months, whipping up a few fresh batches for your home barbecue or event is simple. It’s also a great way to take advantage of fresh, budget-friendly ingredients from your local farmer’s market. Your creativity level is the only limit when it comes to presenting these potions to your party and event guests.
Another fun side to the “smart drink” revolution is the smoothie or “liquado,” also known as the “batido,” which is Spanish for “beaten.” Long before these drinks became popular in the U.S., they had a well established history in Latin American countries. They are made with fresh local berries, fruits, nuts and milk. (It is important to note that the best examples of these drinks are not made from concentrates or mixes, as you often see today; they are simple blends of fruits and milk, plus other fresh ingredients.)
Get it set up
So for your next event, consider an “all-natural” bar with a blender; fun or elegant drink glasses; and a nice selection of fruits, juices, and natural garnishes – then have a bartender make fresh and exciting drinks for your guests. You also can have them pre-made, so your attendees can serve themselves.
These drinks also can be appropriate for fall and winter months, when you can use warm ingredients such as herbal and fruit teas.
Your cold-weather beverage setup can include a nice selection of all-natural sweeteners and fruit garnishes to make things fun. Using an on-site beverage mixologist ups your attendee interaction factor, and adds value to your events. People love mingling and sampling while their drinks are being prepared.
Herbal teas are all the rage right now for the medicinal qualities they may possess. It’s even claimed they can help with everything from easing a cold or indigestion to fighting infection and nausea.
When choosing an herbal tea, make sure you pick the right one. While fruit-flavored teas such as those made from rose hips, apple, and orange tend to be delicious, they may be sold more for their flavors than anything else. Other herbal teas such as those made with mint, thyme, and ginger may have greater therapeutic virtues.
Whatever ingredients you choose in crafting “smart drinks” for events, you deserve an enthusiastic thumbs up for caring about the health and enjoyment of your valued guests!
If you attended our Spring 2016 Missouri Meetings and Events Expo in St. Louis this past May, you got to experience first-hand how Chef Martin creates some of these exciting, unusual and healthful beverages. Tune in to future issues of MM&E for more information on this colorful, drinkable topic!
To learn more about Chef Martin Lopez, visit www.chefmartin.net.