Let me get this out of the way first: I don’t care, even a little bit, about fancy juice’s supposed health benefits. I’m aware that juice parlors are riding a wellness wave, with their acai berries and antioxidants and preservative-free preparations and employees with names like Cayenne or Cheyenne or Cyan. Cold-pressed juice uses high-pressure processing, instead of heat, to sterilize the fruits and vegetables, which many claim preserves the nutrients, vitamins, minerals, natural fibers, and enzymes lost in traditional juicing. But this science is nascent at best, with questions as to whether we’re consistently absorbing these nutrients and if they’re uniformly beneficial. And even if it was true, I still wouldn’t care.
What I do care about, however, is flavor. Flavor and cost. Why must these $8, $10, even $12 bottles of juices have to be so delicious? Who knew you could bring so many herbs and spices and unusual combinations into the mix? I long for the youthful ignorance of $2.99 half gallons of Ocean Spray, before I got hooked on 8 and 12-ounce bottles that cost quadruple that. Which is why I struck out on my own, like Shackleton or Livingston or Dora before me, and attempted to recreate some of my favorite fancy juices at home.
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I started with arguably my favorite fancy juice from unarguably my favorite purveyor. Liquid Gold is a sublime balance of pineapple, apple, lemon, and mint, the color of urine and the taste of heaven. And for my first test I decided to use some real hardware — namely my friend’s swanky $150 juicer. It was a bit of a chore to peel the apples and pineapple, and I wasn’t quite sure how best to integrate the mint without heat, so I just ran it through the juicer alongside the lemons. A few minutes of a terrifying churning sound later, and I had my juice.
Cost: $10 for about 1.5 quarts, or three $8 containers from Press Brothers.
Taste: Delicious! Not quite as unified a flavor as Liquid Gold, with the disparate ingredients detectable in each sip, but pretty darn close. Then again, I can’t be trusted because I love juice!
Next on the docket was Juice Served Here’s Pipe Cleaner, one of my favorite simple juices, a crisp, bracing combination of apple, ginger, and lemon. I decided to forgo the fancy juicer, and instead bought a half gallon of organic apple juice. It doesn’t count as cheating, because I get to make up the rules. Then I squeezed a bunch of lemons, grated a bunch of ginger, and mixed it all together in a pitcher for a few hours to combine. Finally, I poured the concoction through a square of cheesecloth — but you could use a towel, a coffee filter, a fine-mesh sieve, the power of song, whatever — to filter out the lemon pulp and ginger threads.
Cost: $6 for a half gallon, or almost four $9 containers from Juice Served Here.
Taste: Delicious! Almost an exact replica of The Pipe Cleaner, and considerably cheaper.
I chose to finish this experiment by trying to one-up my favorite lemonade. But, while I’m a big fan of Hubert’s balance of tart and sweet, I decided my own attempt would not be bound by anything other than my imagination, my budget, and my crippling fear of abandonment. I wanted a richer, deeper flavor to my lemonade, so I brewed a quick simple syrup of one cup of dark brown sugar and one cup of water, and on a whim I threw in a handful of mint leaves. After a few minutes at a low heat, I let the syrup cool, skimmed out the mint leaves, and mixed in club soda and fresh-squeezed lemon juice. Then I went in search of a front porch to sit on, and a seersucker suit to wear while drinking it.
Cost: $5 for a half gallon, or four $3.50 bottles of Hubert’s
Taste: Delicious! My lemonade was earthy, brownish, and far tastier than any lemonade I can buy in a store. The brown sugar and mint gave it a rich but not cloying sweetness, and the club soda helped complement the lemon juice’s kick.
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You (yes, you!) can make fabulously tasty juices at home, with or without a juicer, starting from scratch or with an inexpensive juice base. It won’t be monumentally cheaper since the cost of fruit and the sheer quantity it takes to produce a serving of juice does add up, but it will be cheaper nonetheless.