Recently, a health-nut friend recommended I do a master cleanse as well as add some more green juices into my diet. “No problem,” I thought, as those are the names of two cocktails offered at Newport Beach’s Gratitude Kitchen & Bar, a hip and airy place where the number of yoga instructors outnumber dad bods such as mine at least 21 to one.
And then I said five words I’ve never said at a bar: “I’ll have a master cleanse.” Bow-tied bartender Dylan Veit, who has been with Gratitude since it opened, combined mezcal, ancho chile, limoncello and maple syrup in a Boston shaker, then strained the results over a foggy square of ice in a rocks glass, garnishing with a lemon peel. The other master cleanse, in which people fast on nothing but lemon juice, cayenne pepper and maple syrup, sounds like torture compared to this inventive, creative cocktail. “Do you think I could lose weight with a diet of only this?” I ask Veit, who chuckles.
Veit comes in early each day to get the bar prepped. “This is a unique bar program, for sure,” he says. “Pressing organic fruits and veggies for drinks gives us a lot of fresh flavors. . . . Not only that, but they’re also nutritious.”
Two drinks highlighted by this process are the Green Juice and the Can’t Be Beet.
Green Juice is a bright-green, boozy, health bomb with spinach, cucumber, celery, kale, pineapple, mint and lime; they’re amped up to another level with both gin and aquavit. Can’t Be Beet is a blazing violet blend of carrot, orange, turmeric, lime, beet and mezcal. Before I tried it, I’d have bet cold hard cash beets mixed with mezcal would be hot garbage. But damn, these drinks are fire. They’re not only balanced, nutritious and boozy, but they’re also sexy. Just don’t spill any on your yoga mat.
I didn’t realize Gratitude was a vegan restaurant until I saw the menu, on which classic veggie dishes from around the globe are highlighted with affirming names to use while ordering. There’s Terrific, a raw version of a pad Thai kelp noodle salad with an almond twist, and Humble, an Indian dish that ends up being a hearty curry bowl with red lentil dal and creamy roasted garnet yams that light up your palate with heartwarming freshness.
Another thing I didn’t expect was a secret menu item I somehow unlocked: Avocado, black beans, pickled carrots, cilantro and vegan crema are piled high atop savory, house-made, crispy tortilla chips. This plate of nachos is appropriately called the Sharing, which was damn hard to do with the tasty, carnitas-like mushrooms scattered like tinsel on a Christmas tree. I could possibly go vegan if food and drinks such as these were available everywhere.
Gratitude Kitchen & Bar, 1617 Westcliff Dr., Ste. 112, Newport Beach, (949) 386-8100; gratitudekitchenandbar.com.
Greg Nagel has been writing about beer since 2011, is an avid homebrewer of wine, cider, and beer, is a certified Cicerone Beer Server, level 1 WSET in Wine, a podcaster with the Four Brewers Show, and runs a yearly beer festival called Firkfest happening this June!