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Photo: Andreana BItsis

Island to Island Puts the “Bar” Back in Juice Bar

“This isn’t Smirnoff birthday cake. That’s poison. This is medicine.”

So says Danii Oliver, the owner of Island to Island, as we sit at her bar sipping fresh lavender smoothies in the summer heat.

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Located in Brooklyn a few blocks from Prospect Park, Island to Island is bringing “bar” back to the juice bar trend by serving smoothies and kombucha alongside chic cocktails. The “seed to spirit” juicery and craft beer brewery strictly sources their organic ingredients from across New York state, serving them up in a smooth, dark paneled bar where the shelves feature kombucha scobies next to sleek spirits. Wellness as nightlife is a growing trend, and Island to Island evokes just the right mood, their health club/hang out hybrid completed by an outdoor garden space and board games. (When GC visited, 50 Cent and Snoop Dog played out over the speakers.)

Of the bar’s effortlessly cool style, Oliver explains, “We created a place a pregnant momma can hang, an overworked man can chill, a child and parents would not be bounced from– and, best of all, a place a person on a juice fast could be social without their friends or coworkers passing judgement because there is something for everyone.”

Photo: Andreana BItsis

The space was born out of Oliver’s own desire for such a place– a space where she could enjoy being out without having to sacrifice eating what made her feel good. Oliver was 200 pounds when her journey began and though she thought she was making healthy choices, she soon realized she wasn’t aware of all the additives in what she was eating. When she became pregnant, she became even more committed to cleaning up her diet.

I got serious about eating natural, eating in season, eating local and being aware of what I consumed,” Oliver recalls. “Drastic change happened. My food-related allergies disappeared, my depression stopped, and the weight melted off of me. But I started losing friends… Going out became a nightmare. No one invited me out because they thought I could not eat anything.”

Drawing on her seven years’ experience as a mixologist, Oliver began crafting juices for herself, using the traditionally alcoholic art to balance flavors and taste. As she began to see improvements in her health, those around her wanted in. From there, House of Juice (Oliver’s in-house juice brand) and Island to Island were born.

Photo: Andreana Bitsis

Today, Island to Island’s signature menu option is their “Seed to Spirit” flight, a grafting of the farm-to-table movement and a classic bar offering.

“The ‘Seed to Spirit Experience’ is a flight that takes guests on the journey of food’s life cycle from seed, to produce, to probiotic, to spirit. It is the natural journey that plants go through as they age, gain wisdom, and share their properties with us differently at every phase,” Oliver relays. “The flight board consists of a smoothie (made with coconut, chia seeds and flaxseeds), a juice (made from the water of fruits and vegetables), a probiotic soda (made from tea, herbs, roots or bark, and good bacteria), and finally a spirit (made from any of the season’s local harvest of fruits, vegetables, grains, herbs, and yeast to produce alcohol from the natural sugars). The ‘Seed to Spirit Experience’ involves exploring plant benefits in liquid form along with the culinary experience of sweet, savory, sour and bitter.”

In addition to the Seed to Spirit flight, Island to Island has an array of cold pressed juices (which you can choose to have spiked), smoothies, and their in-house superfood wellness shot (ginger, turmeric, bule sole bl2, olive leaf, honey, and bee pollen). According to Oliver, Island to Island’s signature drinks are “The Ollie-T” (a smoothie that is a green twist on a piña colada), “The Purple Heart” (a juice using sorrel as its base), “The Brooklyn Jun Brew” (a kombucha that’s excellent with a touch of pineapple added), and “The Sorrel Ale” (a spiced Trinidadian “celebration juice”).

Photo: Andreana BItsis

Through Island to Island, Oliver is hoping to balance out alcohol’s reputation as “bad” and unhealthy.

“In the old days fermented drinks were used as medicine– mediums that preserved and sped up the absorption of plant properties into a person’s blood stream, like tinctures,” Oliver explains. “In my homeland, drinks were crafted by Arawak women to make the men happy. Our grandparents used grain-based alcohols to disinfect, soothe pain, and de-stress the mind and body.”

According to Oliver, a large part of understanding how alcohol can be beneficial is shifting where and how it is consumed.

Yes, drinking and getting drunk is not ideal but alcohol in moderation is beneficial,” Oliver clarifies. “Craft beer and the hops in the beer have many medicinal properties. One person should not drink a keg of beer, but one person having a craft beer at night, and especially in a social setting, will have a world of benefits, from the effects of the hops (family to cannabis) to the social healing of depression.”

In this way, Island to Island heals both the body and the community, providing an “engaging experience to anyone from as young as a child to as old as great-grandparents” in a place where people can come together, without pressure to drink. No matter your order, Island to Island proves anyone can have a good time.

Island to Island is located at 642 Rogers Avenue, Brooklyn, New York. Visit their website for more information.

Looking for a place to grab a bite to eat while in Brooklyn? Head to the world’s first avocado bar: the Avocaderia.

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