I recently had the opportunity to taste through the new collection of "Spa-Tinis" at Morton's Steakhouse downtown. This new menu offers five new cocktails that all come in at less than 200 calories each and include some of the popular "superfruit" flavor profiles like pomegranate and açaí. Morton's cuts the calorie count by using fresh juices instead of flavor syrups and by substituting agave nectar and sugar-free Triple Sec in place of traditional sweetening agents. Since many of the calories of a cocktail come from the alcohol content, they also used lower-proof products in some of the drinks, but hey, we're talking about a drink before dinner, not something to get blitzed with. The result were really quite good.
The favorite of the group I was tasting with was a Ty Ku Soju-based cocktail with lime, mint and cucumber, which Morton's calls a Lean and Green. This refreshing take on a mojito would be perfect to cool you down from a hot summer day while you wait to get your porterhouse on in the dining room. Also popular was the Skinny Margarita. I've been bitten in the past by margaritas that claimed to be low-cal versions, but Morton's has really hit the mark with this one. The agave nectar doesn't have the chemical aftertaste of Splenda, and it certainly didn't hurt that they made it with Patrón Silver.
Less successful was the Skinny Cosmo that did have the diet aftertaste thanks to the use of the sugar-free Triple Sec. I'm pretty sure I'd get my wine & spirits reviewer union card revoked if I was spotted drinking a Skinny Cosmo anyway, so it was no great loss to me.
The Antioxidant Me was made with açaí vodka, pomegranate juice and (redundantly) Superfruit Puree, which is basically açaí and pomegranate. The resulting cocktail tasted vaguely of raspberry Dimetapp, but my fellow tasters all admitted that we secretly like the taste of Dimetapp, or as we always called it around my house "Mommy's Little Helper Nighty-Night Nap Juice." If you convince me that the superfruits are actually healthy for you, then I'm on board.
The last cocktail we tried was The Red Velvet, made with Prosecco, Frambois Lambic and Chambord. I'm on record as saying that if more people drank more Prosecco, the world would be a happier place, so I really liked this sweet concoction. After trying to be good drinking all these "healthy" drinks, we blew any karma points we'd earned by gorging on some of Morton's decadent Bar Bites.
These snacks are at least healthy not-too-big portions, if not necessarily good for you, and are available for five or six bucks from 4:45 until 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 until 11 p.m. Monday though Friday. The trio of mini cheeseburgers and four petite filet mignon sandwiches are particularly good bargains, and the blue cheese steak fries were so good that I wanted to stuff my pockets with them before we left. Thankfully, decorum overruled my gluttony.Another restaurant chain that is riding on the superfruit wave is Knoxville-based Ruby Tuesday. They have aligned with the producers of VeeV to feature this açaí-based product in their entire 300-plus locations. VeeV is a neutral grain distilled from wheat and flavored with the açaí berry, which comes from the same plant as hearts of palm. The resulting liquor has a delicate berry flavor which plays well with other ingredients in cocktails or tastes great chilled in a snifter.
Courtney discovered the wonders of açaí while on a surfing trip in Brazil. Long touted as the ultimate superfruit for it's antioxidant powers, açaí is a huge industry for Brazil. Since it grows in the rainforest, it is critical that the harvesting take place in a sustainable manner, and VeeV donates $1 from every bottle sold to the Sambazon Sustainable Acai Project to ensure that farming methods are continually being audited.
Ruby Tuesday's menu looks a lot like the offerings at Morton's, with a Pomegranate Margarita, a Skinny Pink Lemonade, a Superfruit Cooler, a Watermelon Martini and an Açai Mojito. Ruby's cocktails aren't quite as sophisticated as their chi-chi counterparts, and they don't claim to be under 200 calories, but they also don't cost $14 a pop. Compared to what you might expect from a large chain restaurant, they really were quite good for the money. I particularly enjoyed the Superfruit Cooler made with VeeV, St. Germaine's, cucumber and lime. Pretty good for mall drinks, and I'm always pleased to have more cocktail options.