The Basics Tips & Tricks

Essential Oils Are What You Want in Your Cocktails Right Now

They’re not just for spas anymore.

Saint Balthazar cocktail at Madison in San Diego
Saint Balthazar cocktail at Madison in San Diego. Image:


Devotees of diffusers that dispense aromatic blends into the air now have a new delivery system for boosting energy, instilling clarity and promoting relaxation: your cocktail. 

Brain and Body Booster

The elixirs on the menu at Madison, a modern Mediterranean- and Southern California-influenced restaurant in San Diego, are often infused with healthful ingredients. Offerings in the beverage program spearheaded by Danny Kuehner contain components such as antioxidant-rich butterfly pea flower extract and aloe vera juice; activated charcoal, which is said to assist in kidney function and in filtering out other impurities (but also may interfere with the absorption of medications); CBD oil; and blue-green algae, purported to help the immune system and reduce blood pressure. 

But the benefits to body and mind found in Kuehner’s latest concoctions begin even before the first sip. “Using essential oils made sense for our cocktail program,” says Kuenher. “The complexity of the flavors in the oils we chose work really well in cocktails.”

The Saint Balthazar is like a Pisco Sour-Tiki mashup and contains earthy frankincense oil, which churchgoers may recognize as the heady scent wafting from smoke burning in the thurible, the metal vessel suspended from chains that priests use to bless the congregation around the holidays. 

Helpful Caveats

The oils are used very sparingly—only a drop or two per drink. Still, since traditionally they’re used only externally and many health practitioners discourage ingesting them, Kuehner says a conversation with your health practitioner might be prudent before trying one of these potables. “If you’re taking any medications, we recommend speaking to your doctor or doing some research to be sure there are no interactions,” he says.

And though home drink-makers might liken the oils to similar bar ingredients like bitters or tinctures, Kuehner doesn’t suggest trying to make them from scratch, as the quantity of botanicals, herbs, spices and the like in these blends is very precise and the procedure requires a sterile environment.You can find high-quality brands in health food stores.