The Spread: Fizzy Lifting Drinks with Kombucha
"Booch" brewers from Fort Lauderdale to Panama City, and everywhere in between, aim to elevate health and the party.
In the last three years, at least a dozen new Kombucha brewers have popped up around the state. “It’s just starting to become popular in Florida, and I think there’s a lot more that can happen,” says Nella Fusco, who, with her partner Noah Hebbe, launched Awaken Kombucha three years ago in Vero Beach. “That’s a lot for Florida, considering you can go left, right or down.”
The popularity of the fizzy beverage, which packs a very low alcohol content, owes to its potential to support digestive health—the drink is loaded with probiotics—and its effervescent body, which makes it an appealing substitute for beer, bubbly and extra-sweet fruit juices. It’s made with a community of organisms called a SCOBY (which stands for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”). “It looks like a pancake,” Fusco notes. Because kombucha is exposed to the air during fermentation, it incorporates environmental bacteria. Like honey, it reflects its immediate natural surroundings, which creates a distinctive flavor and could help fight allergies.
Awaken, which expects to open its own Vero Beach taproom soon, distributes its brand to taps at 30-plus cafes and farmers markets across Central and South Florida. Like many other brewers, the company emphasizes organic ingredients sourced from local farmers. It is also exploring teas infused with cannabidiol, known as CBD, from hemp plants.
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Every brew Fusco and Hebbe make is unique, as Awaken offers the state’s only oak-aged kombucha, which is more commonly fermented in glass or stainless-steel. The wood barrels supply a higher air flow and don’t require wheat paste or gluten as a sealant. “Microbes love porous wood,” Fusco says. “It has a nice, round, bold flavor.”
Fizz Finder: Local Kombucha Brewers Around the State
KOMBULICIOUS, Greater Fort Lauderdale
Co-founded by South Florida’s largest grower of organic mushrooms and a well-traveled graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, this lively brand has developed more than 50 flavors – pineapple lime aloe coconut and acai clove pomegranate are among the year-round options. The website offers an extensive list of locations that offer Kombulicious in 12-ounce bottles and on tap.
NOLI SOUTH, Panama City
The mom and pop operation advertises five flavors—including lemongrass lavender and hibiscus grape—made in small batches using organic ingredients. Noli South kombucha is available in bottles and on tap from about 20 restaurants and markets in the Panhandle.
MOONBOOCH, Saint Augustine
Founded by former California chef Stephen Mekoski, who also serves brewmaster, the brand is sold “farm-to-tap” at various farmers markets and yoga studios in the Jacksonville area. Flavors include pineapple turmeric and strawberry limeade.
MOTHER KOMBUCHA, Saint Petersburg
Billed as “local, fresh, raw, organic, fair trade,” this kombucha is made in a 13,000-square-foot facility and sold on tap in the Tampa Bay area and in bottles at Publix supermarkets. Flavors include hopped passion fruit and orange blossom switchel.
MIX IT UP WITH THESE KOMBUCHA-INSPIRED
WILD BERRY MOJITO
- 1/2 cup strawberries
- 4mint leaves
- 4 ounces vodka
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 8ounces wild berry kombucha
- Berries to garnish
Preparation: Puree strawberries in a food processor. Muddle mint in 2 serving glasses. Fill each glass with ice. Add pureed strawberries, vodka, lime juice and kombucha to a mixing glass, and stir well to combine. Pour into serving glasses, and garnish with mint and berries of choice.
REJUVENATION KOMBUCHA TONIC MOCKTAIL
- 1 cup blue lotus and vanilla kombucha (or any herbal kombucha)
- 1/2cup watermelon juice
- 1/2teaspoon pine pollen, such as Sun Potion
Preparation: Combine ingredients in a glass, stir well and enjoy!
- 1 part orange juice
- 1 part kombucha of your choice
Preparation: Combine ingredients in a festive vessel and sip. If you want alcohol, replace the orange juice with an equivalent volume of champagne