Drink to your health

Sushi. Tapas. Gourmet burgers. Las Vegas may not kick off culinary trends, but its gastro-illuminati certainly knows how to spot them, perfect them, and then take them to the next level. However, Vegas foodies aren’t sinking their teeth into the next big thing changing the valley’s culinary landscape — instead, they’re sipping it through a straw.

Juice bars have been popping up all over Southern Nevada, with new spots such as The Juice Standard, Grass Roots and Juice NV opening in just the last year. Unlike the creamy, icy, fruity concoctions popularized by national chains such as Jamba Juice and Orange Julius, the juices being offered by these independent outlets are vegetable-based—think cucumber, kale, celery, carrot and beets—and offer combinations of ingredients designed to optimize the health benefits for consumers.

“People want things that are good for them, but they don’t want to make it themselves,” said Jamie Stephenson, co-owner of The Juice Standard, which specializes in cold-pressed juices and cleansing programs. “Something that’s inherently labor intensive and cumbersome we have turned into a luxury and a convenience.”

Stephenson and her business partner Marcella Melnichuk created The Juice Standard out of a shared passion for juicing. It started as a hobby, but as they shared their creations on social media outlets such as Instagram, the pair started receiving requests to produce their healthy concoctions for friends and followers.

“We knew we had some things that tasted really good and that were really good for you, and we knew how to make it,” Stephenson said. “We’d done education on own part for a decade in food and nutrition, so we took all the knowledge that we learned and we decided ‘let’s make a business out of this, let’s elevate humanity while we’re at it, let’s use all of our own values and share them with others and those who resonate with those values will come forward and support us.’”

The Juice Standard offers an entire “bee”-themed menu of daily pressed juices for every type of palate and ailment. “Bee Positive,” enhanced with activated charcoal, supposedly curbs the effects of a hangover, while the popular “Bee WHealthy” includes turmeric, which is thought to have anti-aging qualities. The menu also includes a number of decadent-tasting nut milks, whose creamy consistency is achieved without the use of dairy products. Melnichuk says her own kids are the taste testers for their recipes.

“For me, it was about creating a healthy life for my children and teaching them that vegetables can taste really yummy,” said Melnichuk. “So often, we find that children become picky eaters, but by making it fun, and sneaking it in there, they can learn to appreciate it more and really acquire a taste for it.”

Grass Roots, which opened inside the renovated John E. Carson building downtown last summer, not only offers whole-food juices and smoothies, but also soup and ice cream, all made from fresh, organic produce, which is sourced from “local, regional small farms and farmer’s markets,” according to the business’ website. Both Juice NV—which bills itself as an “urban farm stand”—and The Juice Standard specialize in cold-pressed juices, a method of juicing that uses tremendous pressure applied to fruits and vegetables, as opposed to using spinning, chopping blades.

Even the hospitality industry is getting in on the cold-pressed juice game. Bellagio recently launched a program that offers USDA-certified organic, cold-pressed juices for purchase at resident dining outlets Jean Philippe Patisserie, Spa Bellagio, Palio, Palio Pronto, Café Bellagio and Café Gelato. Instead of sourcing the juices from an outside vendor, Bellagio’s three flavor combinations are created and bottled in-house at the Strip resort.

“We could customize our flavor profile and ensure the best quality is being served to our guests,” said Bellagio Executive Chef Edmund Wong of the decision to keep the bottling process streamlined. “Our guests are always looking for a healthy and organic alternative.”

Wong says cold-pressed juice “allows for higher retention of all the nutritional value in the organic ingredients” compared to centrifugal processing. According to Stephenson, bottled, cold-pressed juice “adds an extra level of convenience,” because the nutritional shelf life is about six days, compared to traditionally blended juices, which she says need to be consumed within about 15 minutes to optimize the absorption of nutrients and enzymes.

It might seem to be somewhat ironic for such a healthy habit flourishing in a city known for Bacchanalian excess. But Stephenson isn’t surprised by the demand at all. Rather, she says this yearning for better nutrition is a reaction to that very reputation.

“This is a city of excess,” she said, “We identify with being ‘Sin City.’ There comes point where people are simply sick and tired of being sick and tired.”