Health-conscious Queen City residents have been juicing for years. Now, downtown is home to at least three bars offering cold-pressed raw juice, and several others can be found in the city’s South End as well as South Burlington, two of which opened last fall. Then there’s the Juice Bar, which pops up at farmers markets and other spots year-round and grows its own veggies in the Intervale.
Though a single juice from any of these places can rival a top-shelf cocktail in price, drinking it is arguably the most efficient way to get your daily dose of fruits and vegetables.
But — honestly now — what about the taste? Is imbibing a glass of concentrated flora any fun in real life?
Last week, five foolhardy Seven Days staffers bellied up to a variety of local liquids in hopes of uncovering a bit of juicy truth. Their reactions — which ran the gamut from pleasant, civilized sipping to full-on gagging — were as visceral and diverse as the juices themselves.
Tucked into a semi-subterranean space about a block off of Church Street, this small juice counter (and the adjacent, affiliated spin studio) celebrated its first anniversary last October. Juicebox co-owner and nutritionist Kara Bouchett — who runs both businesses with her husband, Ian Bouchett, and partner Sara Larkin — formulates each raw, made-to-order juice to strike a healthy balance.
In addition, Juicebox offers smoothies — these can be enhanced with boosters such as goji berries, chaga, chia seeds, hemp hearts and local bee pollen — raw snacks and Supercharger shots such as wheatgrass, kale and ginger. At $5.99 for a 16-ounce pour, Juicebox beverages fall on the more affordable end of the spectrum.
Ingredients: orange, grapefruit, lemon
Alice Levitt, senior food writer: The tartness is a surprise but not unpleasant. A whole glass would be overwhelming. By the end, I'd feel like the grapefruit was strangling me.
Hannah Palmer Egan, food writer: Really bright, lots of citrusy tang. Drinking this makes me feel zippy, light and a little floaty.
Cheryl Brownell, business manger: It's very crisp and leaves your mouth dry, but in a good way. This would be good with vodka.
Diane Sullivan, art director: The color is a little frightening — kind of an organic chartreuse. It smells like wonderful citrusy goodness but it makes my throat feel funny. How do you spell "ccchhhhuuuuccchhhhh"?
Ingredients: beet, pineapple, cucumber
Cheryl: Feels like I'm drinking something healthy; tastes like a watered-down beet.
Hannah: Very, very beety, but layered. Though strangely complex, it tastes mellow and healthful.
Alice: Cucumber and beet combine to taste like a watered-down winter watermelon, with a meaty finishing note.
Diane: Festive color. Smells like dirt. Doesn't hurt my face in any way.
Ingredients: kale, cucumber, celery, apple, ginger, lemon
Ethan de Seife, staff writer: This is so very, very green. It tastes sort of like liquid Chinese food. Too much ginger?
Alice: The ginger-lemon odor with hints of celery makes me salivate, but not because I like it. It makes me want to drink something else.
Cheryl: Green and frothy ... I like it. It's complex, and I like that each flavor comes in waves and they're complementary.
Diane: Tastes like a crazy summer explosion with a little fizziness. This juice is a fun time, but it feels like it could hurt my tummy if I drank a lot of it.
Hannah: Tangy celery and citrus; abundant, foamy head. Drinking this feels like getting blindsided by a trainload of salad. It's making my face feel funny.
Opened in early November by former marine biologist Hannah George, Vermont Juice Company offers raw juices — much of the produce comes from local farms — and nut milks. George packages her wares in plastic bottles ($9 for 16 ounces), which makes them easy to grab and go — no leaky cups or bent straws here. In addition to juice, which can be bought in packages for multiday cleanses, the company offers chia and acai bowls for a quick meal packed with nutrients.
Ingredients: beet, blueberry, grape, apple, lime, mint, cucumber, celery
Hannah: Sweet, with some citrus and a celery scent. It tastes springy!
Ethan: Not too sweet; it has a Life Savers-like aftertaste. This is dangerous for white-shirted people.
Diane: General note: The bottles kinda bum me out.
Cheryl: This starts off good, but there's something weird about it. I'm conflicted — I think it's the celery.
Alice: With its deep-red color, it looks like the celery I'm tasting died a bloody death.
Ingredients: kale, collards, chard, spinach, lettuce, cucumber, celery, lemon
Diane: Tastes like lawn clippings and hose water. Not necessarily a bad thing.
Alice: This smells like a pool. The front of my tongue doesn't taste this, but once it hits the back of my throat, it's like I've fallen off my bike face-first into someone's lawn.
Ethan: I would lick my lawn mower blades if I desired this flavor. Collards should not be juiced.
Cheryl: Gross. I don't like anything about it, except perhaps that it better be good for me.
Hannah: Savory? Tastes like a freshly cut lawn smells. A tough swallow — by no means does it just slip down your throat. They need to sweeten this shit up!
Ingredients: figs, cashews, almonds, holiday spices, vanilla, maple syrup
Ethan: This smells like chai and reminds me of cookies from my youth.
Hannah: Tastes a bit like gingerbread or plum pudding — a nice, calming, wintry flavor.
Diane: The name made me nervous. I think it would taste good if I could actually taste it. The flavor seems hidden in a watery fog.
Alice: Things were tight this year and Mom had to water down the eggnog so she could buy you presents. This smells like Christmas, but doesn't taste like much.
Cheryl: Sweet and nutmeg, but meh. Tastes like a clearly healthy version of eggnog that isn't really worth your time.
Inspired by the juices she encountered while living abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico, Gabrielle Kammerer spent five years pressing organic juice and nut milks (sourced from local farms as often as possible) for delivery. Last fall, she opened a storefront at the intersection of St. Paul and Howard streets in Burlington's South End.
Even on a cloudy day, sun seems to stream through the shop's ample windows. Perhaps that's just the glow emanating from Kammerer and her juice ladies, who stand behind long tables piled high with greens, fruits and vegetables ready to be pressed into liquid love. Tomgirl hasn't stopped delivering (cleanses or otherwise), but now passersby can pop in and grab a returnable mason jar of juice ($10 to $11 for 16 ounces) without having to call ahead.
Ingredients: kale, rainbow chard, collard greens, Ambrosia apple, lime, romaine, celery, parsley, spinach, Hawaiian ginger
Hannah: Celery and kale up front, ginger and citrus on the back of the tongue. I had this when I was horribly hung over once and felt like I'd been punched in the gut. Then, an hour or so later, I felt really good. It's intense.
Ethan: This looks like face-mask liquid, but I sort of like the spice.
Alice: This is too bitter for me, with a burn that reminds me of alcohol. On the plus side, water tastes really good after sipping this.
Cheryl: It's like drinking arugula; makes me feel like gagging.
Diane: It would make an interesting Bloody Mary — it's kinda spicy. A weird bitter thing happening ... sort of sharp at the back of my throat.
Ingredients: Spanish almonds, Medjool date, pink Himalayan sea salt, vanilla bean, reverse-osmosis water
Cheryl: Smells lovely, has a smooth texture. It's pretty mellow.
Alice: Smells like cake batter and My Little Ponies. A big sip and my mouth filled with scratchy sediment. But it's cold and tastes like vanilla, so it's refreshing.
Ethan: This is like drinking a watery, dusty McDonald's vanilla milkshake.
Hannah: Heavy almond flavor, chalky texture. Very nutty. It's subtle and milky, except for the grit, which makes it a little scratchy going down.
Diane: Smells very vanilla-y, but it tastes a little like medicine of some kind. Mylanta?
Ingredients: pineapple, lemon
Ethan: This makes me happy. I heart pineapple.
Alice: Smells like pineapple and butter, with a buttery texture to go with it. Puckery but not unpleasant.
Hannah: Thick, viscous, with a bright lemon yellow. Very, very juicy — maybe the most succulent juice so far. Feels a little heavy in my belly, though.
Cheryl: It's good, but I'd have to drink it in moderation. It might be sickeningly sweet.
Diane: First thought: Pineapple Life Saver melted onto the sole of a sneaker. I wish I had a blender, ice and some rum. Seems like it would hurt my tummy after a bigger dose.
Since 2012, this ultra-modern café has been serving 100-percent organic juices ($9.50 for 16 ounces), smoothies ($6.30 for 16 ounces) and coffee. Healthy eaters can stop in for panini, soup and salads made from local ingredients. But with super-powered mix-ins such as wheatgrass, chaga and milk thistle, a smoothie alone is enough to sustain most people.
A diverse menu results in drinks that are not only good for you but a pleasure to drink. For extra pampering, stop in at Justin Cruz's adjacent hair salon — it's all organic, too.
Ingredients: lemon, lime, cucumber, basil, spinach, ginger, apple
Alice: This smells like a garden. I like the basil and the spice, but it's an assault of citrus. I feel like it's going to erode the enamel on my teeth.
Cheryl: Whoa. Like, whoa ... too much everything. I could not do shots of this.
Diane: Dear God! Someone punched me in the mouth with basil-stuffed boxing gloves.
Ingredients: blueberry, cashew, avocado, hemp-seed oil, kangen water, spirulina, chlorella, marine phytoplankton, raw honey
Cheryl: Yummy. It has a balance of weird healthy stuff and tasty stuff.
Alice: It sounds terrifying, but this is thoroughly agreeable, with the combined taste of avocado and honey equaling something like super banana.
Diane: Mmmm ... delightful. Very banana-y. Nice temperature. Like melted-but-still-cold ice cream.
Hannah: Despite the strange ingredients, the flavor is very innocuous. Drinking this feels happy and nice! Also, like something I would have drunk in college.
Ethan: This tastes like liquid Flintstones Vitamins.
Ingredients: spinach, banana, mint, raw cacao, raw honey, almond milk
Cheryl: Chunky and thick in a substantial way, but not overwhelming.
Diane: The chewy niblets are interesting. Kinda gritty, yet enjoyable.
Hannah: Minty, musky, chewy. This could be a meal.
Ethan: This is neither minty nor chocolaty, but it is gritty. It's getting stuck in my gums.
Alice: I have to be the Mint Chip apologist here. I am a devotee of this particular drink and, I have to say, this is the least minty it's ever tasted. Usually it's like a healthy, natural take on my favorite ice cream flavor. This just tastes like sweet almond milk with chewy cacao flakes.
This expansive space is best known for its opulent chandelier and comfy couches that encourage camping out with a computer. A full vegan menu, as well as a meaty, dairy-filled one, draws in all kinds of eaters for salads, panini and an eclectic range of cupcakes, with flavors that run the gamut from watermelon-cucumber to salted caramel.
But it's not all indulgence at New Moon. The organic juice bar ($6.30 for 16 ounces) uses organic veggies, many grown at the café's own greenhouses throughout the year.
Ingredients: carrot, apple, ginger
Cheryl: Bright and sweet, very tasty.
Ethan: The most drinkable by far, this tastes like a sunny April morning.
Alice: A soft waft of ginger reminds me of Vietnamese ginger candy. I would actually drink this. I like that it doesn't taste like it's trying to hurt you.
Diane: Delicious! I could drink this all day. It tastes like it's healthy without grabbing you by the neck.
Ingredients: beet, carrot, celery, lime, ginger
Ethan: Heat it up and call it borscht.
Cheryl: Smells beety and tastes like celery. I'd drink it if someone handed me a cup, but I'm not sure I'd order it.
Alice: I like the full mouthfeel of this one — it's more like a soup than a juice. The sugar of the beets helps to calm the celery.
Ingredients: carrot, beet, kale
Ethan: This looks like oxblood. Bloody dirt juice.
Alice: The roots are earthy with a hint of dirt, but sweet and silky in texture. When you go to Peter Rabbit's house for tea, this is what his mum serves.
Cheryl: I feel like I'm drinking a bloody beet; I can't get over the color. Tastes like I wiped out hiking and ate dirt.
Diane: This one made me feel a little queasy. Looks like blood. I liked it at the beginning of the sip, but then it threw a handful of dirt at me.
222 Dorset Street, South Burlington, 863-2569, healthylivingmarket.com
Since moving and enlarging its quarters in 2008, Healthy Living has been a one-stop shop for gourmet and healthy foods. Local and international raw ingredients are a must, as are the salad and hot bars, and there's usually a line at the espresso and juice bar.
Besides organic, à la carte juices ($5.75 for 12 ounces) and smoothies ($5.75 for 16 ounces, Healthy Living partners with Whole Health Nutrition on a juice cleanse called Purify. The pay-up-front program lasts one to five days and offers a rainbow of fresh liquid nutrition to keep participants going.
Ingredients: spinach, cucumber, melon, lemon, ginger rinse
Diane: These would all be good if you broke your jaw and couldn't eat.
Alice: Despite the initial odor of cat litter box, this tastes like spring, with cucumber and explosive ginger. As the burn grows, I like it more and more.
Cheryl: Very strong ginger, which I think detracts from the salad-y ingredients.
Hannah: Mellower than most of the other green juices, with a bit of sweetness.
Ethan: Gingertown Express, now boarding. It seems almost too deliberately healthful.
Ingredients: beet, carrot, melon, lemon, ginger
Cheryl: I could actually drink a decent amount of this. I like the balance between the ginger and beet.
Alice: The ginger cancels out the basic, vegetal flavors. Here, you get an inoffensive hint of sweetness with the burn.
Hannah: Tastes like digging in a beet patch, with a gingery kick.
Ethan: Liquid beet salad.
Diane: Very yummy. I did Healthy Living's juice cleanse for three days a while ago. This juice was part of it and it was the one I looked forward to.
Ingredients: Almond milk, peanut butter, banana
Cheryl: Super thick. Tastes like a protein shake that bodybuilders drink.
Alice: This smells like Play-Doh, which is a strong endorsement from me. The overall experience is more eating than drinking.
Diane: Holy Moses! The texture is insane. It's like drinking pudding. Not super flavorful. I'd rather just eat the ingredients.
Hannah: I feel like I'm suffocating ... it's clogging my mouth. It tastes like something I might feed my puppy when she's sick.
Ethan: Viscous but chalky, like peanut-flavored chalk pudding.
"Too much of a good thing can be wonderful" is witty movie siren Mae West's most enduring nugget of wisdom. But she died in 1980, before juicing had gained much of a foothold with anyone but hippies and Jack LaLanne. If she had quaffed 18 different juices in the space of about an hour, she probably would have felt less than wonderful.
Our team of intrepid juice drinkers certainly did. We thought a megadose of beets, ginger and lemon juice would leave us beautiful, smart and ready to attack the rest of the day. Where was that detox high we'd heard about?
About halfway through packing our stomachs with liquid sustenance, we started to feel a little queasy. By the time we were done, our hands and foreheads were clammy with what Diane called "the juice sweats."
When we returned to our desks, it was difficult to work. "I feel like I gained 50 liquid pounds sloshing around my gut," said Ethan.
My brain fog was so severe that I couldn't focus on my computer screen. I wanted to drive home but was afraid to operate heavy machinery. Hannah reported, "I just want to go sit on a toilet for an hour with one of those palm-frond women fanning me."
That night, our gastric distress ranged from a slow trickle to something like the toilet scene in Dumb and Dumber. A member of the team texted Diane with the simple missive, "Holy juice farts, Batman!" The only one relatively unscathed was Hannah, who said she began to recover on her walk home from work, feeling better than ever.
How could mainlining healthy food make us feel so bad? University of Vermont nutritionists didn't return our calls before press time, perhaps thinking this was a prank. The one who did email us in response said there wasn't enough information for her to go on record, though she suspected mild contamination of one of the juices.
I was left to do some online research of my own. My conclusion was simple. Besides our symptoms related to simply packing our bodies too full of liquid, many of the ingredients we ingested can have a laxative effect. Citrus, apples and ginger are all known culprits, and were the most common ingredients in many of the juices we sampled.
One thing is certain: Next time any of us hits a juice bar, it will be for one drink at a time. We've all learned that too much of this good thing can be rumble-ful.
Tags: Food + Drink Features, juice, health, smoothie, beverage, fruit, vegetables, The Juice Bar, Juicebox, The Vermont Juice Company, Eco Bean + Juice, New Moon Café, Healthy Living Market & Café, Tomgirl Juice, Tomgirl Juice Co.