Never mind the chatter about cleanses and hyperbolic claims about health benefits. Juice is delicious — period. Shops dedicated to the freshly pressed elixirs (extracted by pulverizing mounds of fruits and vegetables in an industrial machine) have been popping up around town, from old-school East Village street stands to shiny spa-like spaces where the precious liquids are doled out like prescriptions. With the weather warming up, now is the time to start sipping.
Here are our choices for the city’s best juice bars:
The Butcher’s Daughter
Heather Tierney, the cocktail empress and owner of Apotheke and Pulqueria, helms this shiny Nolita shrine to (mostly) raw vegan food and fresh-pressed juices. The restaurant recently rolled out a streamlined dinner menu crafted by Buvette veteran Joya Carlton, but the signature liquid concoctions are really where it’s at. Sip down a “Mexican Sunrise” — corn, jicama, cherimoya, aloe, lemon, lime, agave, and cayenne — while dreaming of sun-soaked afternoons, or undo what you did the night before with a “Hangover Killer” (young Thai coconut, pineapple, yuzu, chili, evening primrose oil, and cilantro). The minimalist white space makes the place feel like a gallery; the vividly colored bottles are the art. 19 Kenmare St at Elizabeth St (212-219-3434).
Stroller-haters beware: Nectar tends to cater to the Brownstone Brooklyn mommy-and-me set. There may be breastfeeding. But if that doesn’t faze you, it’s easy to linger in this homey cafe. If the decibel levels surge, opt for the “Headache Blend” (apple, celery, carrot, cabbage, and celery) and perhaps a pair of headphones. 198 Court St. 718-855-6166.
A longtime East Village stalwart with tiny shops — more like shacks — in two locations, Juicy Lucy offers drinks that are equal parts tropical and free love. Usher in spring with a fresh-pressed greens blend or pick up a bottle of “Basic C,” a reddish-hued mix containing carrot, orange, and “a ray of sunshine.” Chase it with a shot of wheatgrass and lament the loss of the neighborhood’s authentic charms. 85 Ave. A 212-777-5829.
One Lucky Duck If the raw-food world held a prom (where flasks were filled with liquified kale), Sarma Melngailis would be the evening’s queen. The stunning owner of Gramercy’s Pure Food and Wine (who once worked as a consultant for Bain Capital) opened this offshoot juice bar in 2005, specializing in high-end raw foods and juice, with a second location in Chelsea Market. The combinations aren’t particularly inventive (expect greens, beets, apples, and ginger in half a dozen variations), but One Lucky Duck has legions of devotees. The Chelsea spot is across the street from Milk Studios, with high traffic from models on break from photo shoots to prove it. 410 6th Ave. 212-420-9099.
The Juice Press
“Smoking crack is the easiest weight loss program we know of,” reads one of the Juice Press’s supposedly health-promoting postcards. Confused as to what drugs have to do with selling juice? That’s the idea. When the the Juice Press isn’t cracking wise or opening up additional locations (there are seven in the city so far), it’s selling some of the tastiest cold-pressed drinks around. The “Dr. Green Juice” — pineapple, apple, lemon, ginger, and kale — acts like a gateway into the world of liquid produce (it’s pleasantly sweet, with hints of lingering tartness), while the maca-fueled “14 Hour” formula is a better pick-me-up than a double shot of espresso. 70 E. First St. 212-777-0034.
Melvin’s Juice Box Legend has it that Melvin Major Jr. can tell when you’re hung over. “It’s in the eyes,” says the 20-year juice veteran, who gained street cred with the yoga-mat-toting set while pumping out ginger-kale smoothies at Lifethyme Natural Market. Now, the juice man has moved into Jamaican-inspired territory (Melvin’s Juice Box is adjacent to its sister restaurant, Miss Lily’s), but continues to tweak his custom blends regularly. Toss a tiny umbrella into the “Lighting Bold Immune Booster” — a hearty mix of apple, beets, ginger, garlic, carrots, vitamin c, spirulina, echinacea, golden seal, b-complex, and banana — and pretend, just for a second, that you’re sunning oceanside. 130 W Houston St 646-588-5375.
Liquiteria Consider this East Village operation the gold standard in fresh-pressed juices. Since 1996, Liquiteria has drawn a loyal following of hip health nuts to its sun-fulled setting on Second Avenue. Though the spot has aged, its devotion to divine drinks has not. Order the “Royal Flush,” with fresh pineapple, apple, pear, ginger, and aloe vera, and see whether you experience the promised results (a dissolved hangover and a cleaned-out colon). 170 2nd Ave. 212-358-0300.
Known for its detox cleanses, Organic Avenue commands a rapt crowd of health-obsessed celebrities and fitness fanatics. Now a chain, this juicery built its brand capital with bottled options, recognizable for their glass make-up and bulbous shape. Choose from a half-dozen green variations — including one that tempers leafy vegetables with coconut water and another spiked with cayenne, garlic and termeric — or one of the thick, creamy smoothies, like berry blast. New cooked vegan options, like a turmeric tomato cauliflower quinoa bowl, have also become popular for lunch. 116 Suffolk St.; 212-358-0500
Elixir became popular as a post-gym suck-down when it opened outposts in Equinox locations around the city. With almost a dozen locations from TriBeCa to Columbus Circle, the bar focuses on fresh ingredients and claims that it sells nothing that is more than 10 hours old. Aficionados say its juice cleanses perform miracles, and the acai smoothie — made with acai, apple cider, banana, and blueberries for $7.55 — is rich and fresh, a treat on warmer days whether you’re a gym rat or not. 225 Liberty St.; 212-945-0400 (and other locations)
Start with a wheatgrass shooter at this Hell’s Kitchen-spawned Manhattan chain; it’ll make you feel less guilty about veering away from ultra-healthy concoctions. At Juice Generation, the richer smoothies — like Peanut Butter Split ($6.40), a blend of peanut butter, banana, frozen coconut milk, raw agave, and ice — are reminiscent of sinful desserts. Cold-pressed creations sate juice purists, including the tart and refreshing wake-up sipper, Get Ur Green On, made of spinach, kale, pineapple, apple, and mint. 644 Ninth Ave.; 212-541-5600 (and other locations)