Celebs are drinking them. Starbucks is investing in them. Now that cold-pressed juices have bubbled up beyond the health food crowd and gone mainstream, Chicago has gained a fresh crop of boutique juice bars. Made from pounds of organic produce and packaged in beautifully branded to-go bottles, cold-pressed concoctions are much more pricey than the traditionally processed juice you're used to paying a couple bucks for at the grocery store. The owners of the city's newest juice bars—three open now and two coming soon—are banking on Chicagoans forking over more cash for healthier, funkier juice blends. Here's a look at what they're mixing up for thirsty juice fans, plus what to do with all those bottles when you're done.
Location: West Loop (1012 W. Lake St. 312-265-0182)
Price range: From $3 for wheat grass or ginger shots (sold in miniature glass bottles) to $8 for a 16-ounce bottle of cold-pressed juice
Best for beginners: Chef owner Krissy Sciarra suggested first trying Harvest's #4 green juice, which combines kale, spinach, celery and parsley with more familiar flavors such as apple and lemon.
Sounds weird but tastes good: Fennel juice blended with orange and lemon juices and mint, which "is great for your digestive tract," said Sciarra.
It's an acquired taste: Almond-cashew milk with Saigon cinnamon, vanilla bean and Portuguese saltcream; it's lighter than the sweet, thick drink many people expect.
Cleanses available: Harvest Juicery offers a 3-day cleanse ($180) backed by Chicago-based nutritionist Jenny Westerkamp. Sciarra said that cleanses are not necessarily made for losing weight, but for "flushing out the bad, starting with the good."
When you're done: One customer threw a cocktail party using the leftover bottles instead of glasses and allowed her guests to take them home, said Sciarra. Starting in September, you can return bottles to Harvest and Sciarra will donate them to nonprofit organizations that can use them.
Beyond juice: The shop also serves three raw smoothies ($8), which come in a green, a fruit and a breakfast/protein version. Smoothies are dairy-free and made with entirely raw ingredients. Bonus: Blue Door Farm Stand (843 W. Armitage Ave. 773-935-2583) in Lincoln Park opened in January and sells Harvest Juicery's bottled drinks.
Location:East Lakeview (2931 N. Broadway 773-360-7226)
Price range: From $3 for shots to $10 for a 16-ounce cold-pressed juice.
Best for beginners: Angela Maicki, who owns this "100 percent organic and raw" East Lakeview cafe with her husband Anthony, said they prefer to talk to customers about their health goals and what "flavor profiles they find approachable" before recommending a juice to start with, but the Limoncello—a blend of golden delicious apples and lemon juice—sounds the most palatable for juice newbies.
Sounds weird but tastes good: Pink Rabbit, a blend of grapefruit and fennel juice.
It's an acquired taste: Bloody Merry—a blend of beet, carrot, cucumber, lemon and burdock root—is one of the more unique-sounding options on the menu.
Cleanses available: Personalized cleanses that can last from one to seven days and consist of five juices a day ($48 a day). Angela Maicki described their cleanses as "a vacation for your digestive system."
When you're done: The owners suggest using the bottles to plant flowers or herbs.
Beyond juice: The cafe also offer elixirs, which are "a concentrated variety of different juices, herbs and spices that offer healing properties," Angela Maicki said. Also on the menu are smoothies ($6-$8.50) called "superfood blends" ($6-$8.50) made with ingredients such as hemp seeds, almond milk, goji berries, spirulina and coconut milk.
Location: Old Town (1647 N. Wells St. 312-846-1897)
Price range: $3.25 for shots, $6.95-$7.95 for 10-ounce bottles and $5.95-$10.50 for 16-ounce bottles of cold-pressed juices
Best for beginners: Cutler #6, a blend of spinach, carrot, apple, celery, cucumber and lemon created in partnership with Jay Cutler is a good entry-level green juice. "It's really smooth and it's not harsh, but it's also great for your immune system … and a great source of energy," said owner Jon Schiff, who quit a career in finance to open this cafe. Partial proceeds from sales of the juice go to the Jay Cutler Foundation, which helps kids with Type 1 diabetes.
Sounds weird but tastes good: Juice Willis, a mix of carrot and lime juice plus coconut water.
It's an acquired taste: Punky Juice-ster, a blend of matcha, chlorophyll, mint, almond milk and chia seeds that take on a gel-like consistency akin to bubble tea. "Matcha is a great source of caffeine and antioxidants," Schiff said. "I'll drink it in the morning if I don't have a green juice, just for like a steady release of caffeine."
Cleanses available: The cafe's registered dietitian Laura Oliver is designing a 3-5 day combination juice and fiber cleanse that will debut soon.
When you're done: Recycle the BPA-free plastic bottles in bins at the store or at home.
Beyond juice: Schiff's cousin Gabe Lava serves as juice chef and also created a menu of salads and snacks ranging from chia pudding and granola to a vegetarian ceviche made with coconut, fennel and kohlrabi.
Location: Logan Square (2355 N. Milwaukee Ave. 773-227-3444)
Opening: Any week now
Price range: $8-$12 for 16-ounce bottles of cold-pressed juice blends
Best for beginners: Creative fruit juices options such as pomegranate with red grape and lime.
Sounds weird but tastes good: Co-owner Anne M. Owen said Owen & Alchemy's unique nut milks—think hazelnut, pistachio, cashew and pecan—"take [almond milk] to the next level."
It's an acquired taste: Aloe, turmeric or ginger shots. Because they are freshly cold-pressed, raw, and therefore not losing many of their nutrients when being cooked, these shots are an "awesome way to add in super-foods" to your diet, said Owen.
Cleanses available: Owen said Owen & Alchemy will have both a consulting nutritionist and an herbalist in the store one day every week to talk with customers. Three levels of cleanses ($60 each) will be offered, with custom cleanses available upon request.
When you're done: For those who don't want to use the glass bottles as vases or water bottles, you can return your bottle to the store and receive a $1 credit toward a future purchase.
Beyond juice: A small food menu will include acai bowls (acai berry, seasonal fruit, raw local honey, bee pollen and granola), quinoa bowls and kale salads from chef and co-owner Jared Van Camp (Nellcote, Old Town Social, Leghorn)
Location: West Town (742 N. Damen Ave. 512-740-5783)
Price range: $2.50 for a wheatgrass shot to $8 for a made-to-order 32-ounce juice.
Best for beginners: Juice that is 75 percent sweet fruit juice and 25 percent veggies. "That way, you're sneaking in some greens, but you can't really taste it," said owner Ariel Sanders.
Sounds weird but tastes good: A veggie smoothie made with mango, pineapple, beets, parsley, lemon and carrot juice. Though you wouldn't don't expect beet and mango to go well together, they definitely do, said Sanders.
It's an acquired taste: Wheatgrass juice, which "tastes like you just mowed a lawn."
Cleanses available: Options ranging from beginner to expert can be set up online and then delivered by bicycle to your home daily.
When you're done: To-go orders come in compostable plastic cups and juice deliveries are packaged in glass bottles, which Sanders upcycles to hold sea salts and other bath goodies. Or bring your bottles back to the store for a 10 percent discount on your next order.
Beyond juice: The cafe will also serve three different vegan milkshakes ($6 for 18 ounces) and raw porridge made with soaked oats, fresh bananas, walnuts and cranberries.
Why does cold-pressing matter?
Cold-pressing fruits and vegetables helps retain the enzymes and nutrients from fruit and veggies when juicing, which are damaged in the traditional juicing process because of the heat and friction involved. The result is reportedly a more concentrated dose of the vitamins and antioxidants naturally occurring in fruits and veggies; Owen likens it to "drinking a basket of produce." Cold-pressed juice is also processed minimally. "The stuff you're getting at the grocery store is processed. It stays on the shelf for three months," said Schiff. "Our product stays on the shelf for three days. It's real food. Real food goes bad; it doesn't have an extended shelf-life."
Why are they so pricey?
First, there's volume. Each bottle of cold-pressed juice is made from "literally pounds and pounds of produce," said Owen. Then, there's cost of organic produce. "If you're sourcing conventional ingredients, you can keep the prices down, but we're not," said Schiff. "We're sourcing from the Green City Market and local farmers, we're using organic ingredients … so it's expensive." Sciarra likens cold-pressed juice to specialty coffee, "where you might spend $4 or $5 on one drink." Schiff adds, "When you buy a burger for $10.50, no one turns your head in Chicago, but when you buy a juice, there's some education, and I think that's important."
What's with the nut milks?
As nut milks have become more popular dairy alternatives, juice bars are mixing up their own blends, minus the preservatives required to keep them shelf-stable at the grocery store, said Owen. Sanders said she schedules nut milks as the last drink of the day in a juice cleanse to help customers feel like they aren't going to bed on an empty stomach.
Carly Dyer is a RedEye special contributor. Additional reporting by Eat & Drink editor Lisa Arnett. firstname.lastname@example.org | @redeyeeatdrinkWant more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye's Facebook page. Copyright © 2015, RedEye