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alcohol-free martini consisting of sparkling mineral water over ice with a few drops of bitters, and a skewer of four pitted green olives

The Virgin Martini

aip dairy free drinks gluten free paleo recipes

You: "Uhh, WHAT?!"  

Me: Yes, dear reader. You read that right. I said Virgin Martini.

You: Isn't that an oxymoron, Ginny?? Wouldn't a virgin martini be an empty glass with a few olives in it?

Me: Nope. Not the way I make them.

When Friday rolls around, and you're ready for a stiff drink, but then you remember you're avoiding alcohol to support your health, this one'll scratch the itch. 

This 2-minute mocktail combines sparkling mineral water, olives, bitters to help stimulate digestion, and an optional splash of olive juice (if you like your martinis dirty). The Virgin Martini is simple. No muddling, zesting, simple syrup or cocktail shaker is required.

This is my go-to when I'm preparing dinner because not only is it SO easy to make, but those digestive bitters are like a little pre-meal warm-up for the tummy. Best of all, it's crisp, refreshing, low-calorie, and sugar-free. It also happens to be gluten-free, dairy-free, Paleo, and AIP-friendly. 


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Chef's Notes:

This mocktail is an old family recipe from my dear husband's childhood. I've fancied it up a bit with the optional bitters, but essentially it's the same as the one Noah grew up drinking as a youngster.

The Virgin Martini was originally crafted by Noah's grandmother, a competitive ballroom dancer and Southern Belle. Mame came from that Mad Men generation where no five o'clock hour was complete without a stiff cocktail. One of many things Mame was known for was her love of martinis. 

"Back in mah day, we didn't have therapy," she would say in her Jacksonville drawl. "We had mahtinis."

When young Noah spent time with his grandmother (which was often) and happy hour arrived, she would make him a Perrier with a few olives in it and then enjoy her grown-up martini. Thus, the Virgin Martini was born. As adults, Noah and I traded the Virgin Martini for adult versions...until things like Hashimoto's, middle age, and parenthood gradually convinced us to trade in cocktails for mocktails (most of the time). 

The Virgin Martini of Noah's childhood has come full circle for us. Nowadays, the lack of alcohol, digestive support, and the fact that there are only about 30 calories in it (primarily from the olives) has become more of an appeal. 

In case you're unfamiliar, a classic martini is a cocktail comprised entirely of alcohol, usually gin and a small splash of vermouth, shaken with ice and poured into one of those signature built-to-spill martini glasses with a skewer of olives or cocktail onions or a twist of lemon zest. Martinis are high-octane and have led to the coining of phrases like "Tee many martoonis."  

Mame may have had martinis instead of therapy in her day, but that day is done. For Thyroid Thrivers, a good therapy session, a warm Epsom salt bath, or a Virgin Martini are all much better options than consuming ethanol (yes, the same stuff that goes in our gas tanks) for anyone who wants to feel as well as possible for as long as possible. 


Further Reading: 5 Reasons Alcohol is Problematic for Hypothyroidism



What are Bitters?

Bitters are an herbal tincture, usually suspended in alcohol, that enhance or balance the flavor of cocktails. While bitters usually contain alcohol, they are used in such small amounts (usually just a few drops) the alcohol is negligible. There are also a growing number of alcohol-free bitters available today for those who are 100% alcohol-free.

Bitters can be made using several different herbs that stimulate digestion, making this Virgin Martini a perfect pre-dinner mocktail. Formulations vary widely but often include gentian, peppercorns, dandelion, fennel, wormwood, chamomile, orange peel, or cinnamon.

Why is digestive support helpful for Thyroid Thrivers? Because hypothyroidism affects our overall metabolism, including our digestion. Symptoms like constipation, slow gut motility, GERD, poor nutrient absorption, and trouble digesting food can be more common, even for those on supplemental thyroid hormone. Overall, low stomach acid is a common underlying cause of this amongst thyroid patients, so help with digestion is often sought through foods that stimulate digestion like ginger, or supplements like digestive enzymes. While digestive enzymes can be a little harsh (in my experience), a gentler digestive stimulant like bitters can be a supportive pre-mealtime ritual. 

In terms of mixology, bitters add an herbal complexity to drinks and take center stage in the classic cocktail, Bitters & Soda, made with club soda and, of course, bitters. A wedge of lemon makes a nice optional addition to Bitters & Soda, a mocktail designed for those who don't want to drink alcohol but want the experience and taste of a cocktail. It's also a popular drink with those looking for a hangover remedy or something to settle the stomach. Nowadays, boutique bitters abound and are touted not just for cocktails but as bona fide digestive aids.  

Angostura Bitters are the most common brand in the U.S. and work fine if you don't mind that the mixture is alcohol-based and contains "caramel color." I like the taste of Angostura and don't mind it when I'm traveling or dining out. At home, I stock "cleaner" options. There are many to choose from.

Check your local health food store for digestive bitters from brands like:

Depending on your current dietary requirements, you may need to find an alcohol-free option or one that doesn't contain certain ingredients like nightshades or seed spices. Read labels carefully, as formulations vary widely.

If you are on strict, elimination-phase AIP, I suggest omitting the bitters in this Virgin Martini due to the various seed spices and nightshades that may be used. This mocktail is great with or without bitters. For added flavor, you can try adding the juice or zest of lime or lemon or even a splash of olive brine. 



Is Sparkling Mineral Water Thyroid-healthy?

Yes, mineral water specifically can be an optimal thyroid-healthy beverage choice with several health benefits. 

As Thyroid Thrivers, many of us are trying to reduce sugar intake, avoid alcohol, cut down calories, and avoid highly processed foods and food additives (including "natural flavors"). Plain sparkling water becomes a convenient and easy alternative, but not all carbonated water is created equal. There is a difference between products labeled "mineral water" and other types of bottled water products like spring water, club soda, or seltzer. 

As defined by the FDA, products labeled "mineral water" must come from a natural underground reservoir or spring and contain a minimum amount of naturally-occurring trace minerals. While the natural mineral content in mineral water varies depending on the source, it must contain at least 250 parts per million (ppm) of minerals and trace elements, and no minerals can be added. Products labeled "Spring Water" do not have to adhere to these guidelines.

These naturally-occurring trace minerals come in an ionic form which is easy for the body to absorb, making mineral water a bio-available source of things like calcium, magnesium, and sodium. These electrolyte minerals can support your heart, nerve, brain, and muscle function, as well as bone health.

Well-known brands of sparkling mineral water include San Pellegrino, Perrier, Calistoga, and Gerolsteiner, and may come in flat or sparkling options. Whenever possible, Thyroid Thrivers should choose options in glass bottles to avoid endocrine-disrupting chemicals and other toxins found in plastic. 


Thyroid Healthy Recipe Highlights:

  • Olives are a unique fruit that is low in carbs, high in antioxidants like Vitamin E, and high in healthy fats. The plant compounds in olives can support heart health, bone health, and cancer prevention. Olives must be cured and fermented to be eaten, meaning they can be high in beneficial bacteria that can support gut health. 
  • Bitters are an herbal tincture comprised of various herbs, seeds, bark, flowers, and aromatics. While formulations vary widely, they are designed to add flavor and complexity to beverages and stimulate digestion, support detoxification, settle the stomach, and even relieve stress. I use Badass Bitters from WishGarden Herbs. NOTE: If you are 100% alcohol-free, be sure to purchase bitters that are free of alcohol, as most of them are suspended in alcohol, and will add trace amounts to your drink. 
  • Mineral wateras defined by the FDA, must come from a natural underground reservoir or spring, and contain a minimum amount of naturally-occurring trace minerals. These naturally-occurring trace minerals come in an ionic form which is easy for the body to absorb, making mineral water a bio-available source of things like calcium, magnesium, and sodium. These electrolyte minerals can support your heart, nerve, brain, and muscle function, as well as bone health. 


If you'd like to learn more about why mocktails are a more thyroid-healthy option than cocktails, check out my post: 5 Reasons Alcohol is Problematic for Thyroid Patients. Happy cooking, happy thriving, and enjoy the recipe (below).

Cheers to your health!

P.S. Need more thyroid-friendly recipe inspiration? I’ve got you covered. My Thyroid-friendly Everyday eCookbook features over 50 quick and easy, thyroid-friendly recipes your whole family will love. To take a peek at what’s inside, CLICK HERE.



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