Jokingly known as the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems, alcohol is finding a respectable new place in spas. Alcoholic drinks have been produced and consumed by people for thousands of years for a variety of reasons, chiefly to enhance the pleasures of life. Today, that’s exactly what alcohol does for spa treatments and the spa experience. Spas are finding a place for all varieties of booze—beer, bourbon, rum, tequila, vodka, and more—and spa-goers are lapping up the benefits. “There is a lot of intrigue around products containing ingredients that we commonly only associate with alcoholic beverages,” says Rhonda Allison, founder and CEO of Rhonda Allison Cosmeceuticals and RA for Men “Also, because we hear about the health benefits of consuming them, in moderation of course, it immediately piques interest as to how those benefits can translate to the skin.” It turns out alcoholic beverages can be incorporated throughout the menu in soaks, body treatments, nail services, and even facials to treat skin.
Vinotherapy, or immersion in wine and its components, has made a splash in spas for years, but boozy bathing is no longer limited to grapes. Beer and sake soaks are becoming popular and are an easy way to introduce spa and spirits to clients. “More than 100 nutrients are found in sake, including amino acids and organic substances, that activate skin cells and help to prevent skin cell aging,” says Stacey Grondahl, spa director at We Do Men—A Male Concept Spa (Scottsdale, AZ). “Sake offers a protective function for both hair and skin. It detoxifies and regenerates skin cells, making the skin tougher, like a solid skin workout.” In Japan, Hakone Kowakien Yunessun offers alcoholic soaks with wine and sake alongside natural hot springs for a reasonable day pass ($34). A large cask drips sake into the hot spring continuously, and a dip in it may help bathers remove freckles and sunspots. “The baths haven’t been proven scientifically, but there is the expectation of a positive effect, and the fun atmosphere makes the bath enjoyable for all,” says supervisor Asami Nagashima.
Also known as suds, beer is a perfect fit for a relaxing bath. Hop In The Spa (Sisters, OR) is the first beer spa in the state and incorporates beer throughout the menu, including its signature bathing experiences. The Microbrew Soaks (starting at $79, 45 minutes) pamper spa-goers in hops, barley, and minerals for a naturally intoxicating experience. Beer baths are even proving popular in California wine country at Auberge Spa at Calistoga Ranch (Napa Valley). The Ale Bath ($90, 30 minutes) is filled with a local craft Indian Pale Ale (IPA), pure organic hops, and brewer’s yeast. “Hops are a good source of antioxidants, giving the skin a radiant and youthful glow,” says Karen Ray, director of spas for Auberge. “The oils and minerals in the hops plant provide anti-inflammatory effects to the skin and decrease the surface blood vessels. Hops also contain medicinal properties that are extremely calming to the nervous system and assist the muscles in relaxing.” According to Ray, the beer makes a difference, too. IPA has the highest silicon content, which promotes a healthy skeletal system and bone density.
Does a Body Good
Unlike bellying up to the bar, when used topically, liquor actually detoxifies, hydrates, and refreshes the skin. For example, the Rum Swizzle Scrub ($190, 60 minutes) at Exhale Spa at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess & Beach Club (Bermuda) brings the traditional Bermudian beverage to life with a brown sugar, premium aged rum, and citrus exfoliation to revitalize the skin. According to spa director Menique De La Rosa, the rum is an excellent exfoliant on its own. After the therapy, clients can linger longer with a complimentary rum swizzle cocktail and a view of the harbor.
Beer can also help detoxify and cleanse the skin. The Mile High Malt Scrub & Microbrew Massage ($200, 75 minutes) at The Spa at The Ritz-Carlton, Denver incorporates local brews from Great Divide Brewing Co. for a full-body exfoliation, conditioning mask, and hair treatment. Guests’ boozy bliss is bookended by ice-cold mugs of beer. The Spa at Four Seasons Vail (CO) proves that even the packaging can impart wellness. For an out-of-the-box take on hot-stone massage, the Brew and Renew Massage ($170, 50 minutes; $250, 85 minutes) uses cans of Crazy Mountain Brewing Company warmed to the ideal temperature to melt away stress.
Other libations help replenish moisture and hydrate skin. The Salted Lime and Tequila Body Glow (starting at $149, 50 minutes) is a soothing tonic for dry skin at Agave, The Arizona Spa at The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa (Scottsdale, AZ). “The guests who book these treatments are usually spa savvy and are looking for a unique experience,” says spa director Tony Nicastro. “The scent of the treatment reminds them of a margarita, so it creates an instant sensory vacation for them.” The benefits don’t stop there. The therapeutic exfoliation incorporates custom-blended aromatherapy, desert salt, and Casa Herradura Double Barrel Reposado Tequila, which is made from the blue agave plant in Jalisco, Mexico. “Components in blue agave and its byproduct tequila contain polysaccharides, complex sugars that help to hydrate and retain water in the skin,” says Nicastro.
Hands and feet can also get a boozy boost from beer and spirits like bourbon and vodka. “Vodka has amazing antiseptic qualities that allow this product to deeply cleanse the skin, enabling the rice bran oil’s vitamin E and fatty acids to penetrate and improve the skin’s ability to hold onto moisture,” says Trina Marchetti, spa manager at The Spa at Salish Lodge (Snoqualmie, WA). There, the Berry Essentials Manicure & Pedicure ($85, 80 minutes) relies on a vodka-infused sea salt polish complemented by raspberry extract and rice bran oil made by FarmHouse Fresh.
Incorporating local craft liquor can also impart a sense of place and authenticity to enrich the whole experience. Well Spa + Salon at Grand Geneva Resort & Spa (Lake Geneva, WI) keeps Spotted Cow brews, which can only be purchased in Wisconsin, on hand to enhance its nail services. The Toes on Tap Pedicure ($75, 50 minutes) uses a splash of beer in the soak, leaving the rest for sipping. “The hops in beer contain both antimicrobial and antiseptic properties,” says John Morris, director of spa operations. “Beer also softens the skin, so in a pedicure, the enzymes assist in softening the skin on the bottoms of the feet.”
When the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa’s Antler Hall bar launched a new bourbon program, the property’s Allegria Spa (CO) took the opportunity to introduce two bourbon-based seasonal treatments. The Bourbon Cowboy Pedicure ($90, 55 minutes) and Bourbon Marshmallow Butter Pedicure ($90, 55 minutes) incorporate bourbon-infused products from FarmHouse Fresh that spa director Christine Cupertino describes as a “party in a jar.” “The bourbon provides a non-greasy finish to the skin,” she says. The Bourbon Bubbler Kentucky Whiskey Body Scrub was FarmHouse Fresh’s first liquor-infused product, and it’s been a crowd-pleaser for five years. “As a brand, we are really drawn to good food and drinks, and we love working with American distilleries,” says Shannon McLinden, founder and CEO of FarmHouse Fresh. “So including liquors in our line is an extension of love. We mainly use liquor for the sensory experience in a treatment. It adds a fun sophistication to the treatment, particularly when served with corresponding drinks and themed food items.”
Though most spirited spa treatments are made for the body, there are qualities that make alcohol a welcome ingredient in facials. The RA For Men Sake Peel regenerates and detoxifies skin, delivers antioxidants, and soothes irritation and is ideal for use in men’s facials. “Sake is made in a double fermentation process, similar to beer brewing, and it yields low-molecular peptides that offer a
protective function to the skin,” says Allison. “It has been used for centuries to exfoliate, smooth, and detoxify the skin.” She adds that sake is also rich in phosphoserine, ferulic acid, and cysteine (an amino acid), which provide hydration, smoothing and soothing properties, detoxification, and regeneration.
Part of an irreverent, playful menu, the acne-fighting Pumpkin Sake Bomb ($71, 60 minutes) and the moisturizing Tequila Shooter ($51, 60 minutes) are two popular facials designed to treat men’s skin at We Do Men—A Male Concept Spa. Before gentlemen get a booze-infused facial, they can enjoy a tequila sipper to stimulate the senses. “They love the idea of alcoholic elements actually being beneficial to their health and overall skincare,” says Grondahl. “Both tequila and sake are included in the treatments because of their medicinal properties, cell repair and stimulation, and overall hydration.”
The Tequila Lime Refresh Facial (starting at $159, 50 minutes) at Agave, The Arizona Spa relies on citrus-infused products from Éminence Organic Skin Care and local tequila. Introduced in 2015, the tequila-based treatments are among the spa’s most popular. “Guests stop and want to learn more about what we are doing with spirits, and we find that these are most often the treatments that guests will photograph and share on social media,” says Nicastro.
It’s no surprise alcoholic spa treatments are successful, and for most people, it’s a safe and fun choice. “As our treatments are topical, there are few risks for contraindications, but we do not recommend them for expectant mothers, as alcohol is transdermal,” says Nicastro. Booze has a wide appeal in and out of the spa, but it’s important to make sure it’s safe for each spa-goer to sip. “Caution must be used when incorporating alcohol-based treatments for individuals who are taking a lot of medications, who have specific skin conditions, or who have sensitivities to yeast,” says Allison.
And, youthful-looking clients will have a good reason to admit their true age before drinking up. “When incorporating alcohol, it’s always important to train your team on remembering to check identification of guests who may be underage and ensure we are keeping legal drinkers to a two-drink maximum,” says Kendra Rice, spa director at The Spa at Trump Chicago at Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago. “In the spa world, we have to be careful, as we offer heat therapies, such as steam and sauna, which do not mix well for people who have had too much to drink.”
Shaken or stirred, these tipple treatments are sure to leave spa-goers in good spirits. “The beauty of these treatments is that they can be enjoyed year-round,” says Mary Gunderson, spa director at The Spa at Four Seasons Vail. “Boozy treatments are always in style.”
There are more craft breweries than ever before, boasting nearly a decade of double-digit growth, according to the Brewers Association trade group. Craft spirits are on a similar upward trajectory, led by whiskey, gin, vodka, and rum. Check out www.distilling.com/craft and www.brewersassociation.org to browse local brews to add to your spa’s menu.
Flights of Fancy
Sommeliers are expanding their territory to the spa with pampering pairings. This summer, The Spa at Trump Chicago offers a wine tasting to help customize healing oils for spa-goers. Before a wrap, massage, or facial, clients sip three wines and choose their favorite. Then, the therapist uses the sommelier-selected oil paired with the wine of choice. For added relaxation, a glass of the chosen wine awaits guests when they emerge from the service.
A spa sommelier program is also integral to the menu at Santuario Wellness & Spa at Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine (Sardon de Duero), which is located in Spanish wine country. Spa-goers can spend time with the spa sommelier for a blind wine tasting. Based on their preferred sip, they will move on to a tailored treatment. The essence of the wines matches the oils used in the treatments to help spa-goers get in sync during their service.
Help clients fight against free radicals with these products featuring brandy, hops, and wine extracts.—Darby Radcliff
1. Amber Products Wine Crystal Eye Mask: Increase skin’s elasticity and diminish wrinkles with this treatment featuring emollients, phytocollagen, and a wine extract. store.amberproducts.com
2. Babor Cleansing CP Phytoactive Sensitive: Remove dirt, excess oil, and impurities with this gentle formula containing herbal essences of hops, lemon balm, and lime blossom. us.babor.com
3. Biologique Recherche Masque Vivant: Relying on beer yeast extract, this purifying mask effectively removes blackheads and visibly tightens the pores. www.biologique-recherche.us
4. Elemis Skin Buff: Re-energize dull skin with this exfoliator made with extracts of bilberry, chamomile, and hops. www.elemis.com
5. EmerginC Earth Hydrating Phytelene Cream: This conditioning formula containing hops, lemon, and rosemary boosts collagen and elastin to firm, smooth, and protect skin. www.emerginc.com
6. FarmHouse Fresh Brandy Pear Sea Salt Body Polish: Pear-infused brandy, fine sea-salt crystals, and vitamin E-rich rice bran oil refresh, exfoliate, and soften skin in the bath or shower. www.farmhousefreshgoods.com
7. Ilike Organic Skin Care Phytolift Neck & Décolleté Cream: Boost collagen production with this deeply hydrating treatment formulated with a blend of calendula, flaxseed, grapeseed oil, hops, lavender oil, and shea butter. www.szepelet.com
8. Natura Bissé Diamond Drops: Repair the visible signs of aging with this serum containing beta-glucans extracted from beer yeast and botanicals. www.naturabisse.com
9. Pevonia Combination Skin Cleanser: Purify and balance skin with this blend of grapefruit peel oil, hops, rosemary leaf extract, and safflower. www.pevoniapro.com
10. Rhonda Allison Apple Wine Peel: Featuring a selection of wine components and acids, this complex stimulates cell regeneration. www.rhondaallison.com
11. Arcona Wine Hydrating Mask: Replenish parched skin with this formula containing carrot oils, grapeseed, shea butter, vitamin E, and wine extracts, which reduce wrinkles and accelerate skin’s natural defenses. www.arcona.com
12. Tony Moly I’m Real Red Wine Mask Sheet Pore Care: Formulated with red wine extract, this individually wrapped mask reduces the appearance of enlarged pores while tightening and purifying skin. www.tonymolyus.com