A new kind of bar

Root of Happiness serves up Kava
By: Matt Kramer
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At the end of the day a lot of us like to unwind and, much of the time, for people going out and looking to relax, or go on a date, alcohol ends up as a focal point. But a root from the Pacific Islands with a 3,000 year tradition is providing new options for people in the Sacramento area looking for evening activities. According to The Root of Happiness Kava Bar’s website, Kava (Piper methysticum) is a root that has played a central role in Polynesian and Micronesian cultures for 3,000 years. The Root of Happiness Kava Bar, at 1949 Zinfandel Drive in Rancho Cordova, has brought this root and the ambience of the islands to Northern California. The Root of Happiness is the region’s first Kava bar and has been operating since 2013.


I visited the bar for my fifth return visit to explore more about this root, its varied ways of consumption, and the people who enjoy it. Kava’s effects are suited to the ambience at Root of Happiness. According to the establishment’s website, “Kava is a beverage made from the roots of a tropical shrub…cultivated throughout the Pacific Islands for its ability to promote positive wellbeing and pleasant relaxation without affecting mental clarity. The effects of the root vary from subtle relaxation and sociability to deeper calm and even sleepiness. These are felt most strongly in its extracted form and can come on much more quickly, but since Kava itself has an earthy to bitter taste, the bar prepares a variety of delicious cocktails and mixes containing Kava that are more amenable to the palate. My girlfriend and I got the Thursday special which consisted of one Kavajito (a mojito style drink sans alcohol), one High Tide (an 8oz brew of Kava root), and a Lemon Honey Kava concentrate. I added an extra order of the Lemon Honey Kava concentrate for a more potent experience.

As the drink took effect I relaxed and enjoyed the tiki style carvings, the ornate wooden spears and low lighting of the establishment from a comfortable chair, soaking it all in. The bar’s atmosphere was miles away from that of a pub. Upbeat alternative and reggae music played at a low enough volume to facilitate conversation and acted as a sonic backdrop to the scene. The bar space was filled with patrons as were the booths. A giant Jenga block game was also available.


When it comes to why people enjoy Kava, Root of Happiness employee Daniel Montelvetti, 31, said that it provides a different, potentially healthier option for those not looking to indulge in alcohol or other substances. “It’s just a much safer alternative to what is the typical night out,” Montelvetti said. “And it’s healthy.” Brian Gravitt, 21, and a regular patron of Root of Happiness echoed this sentiment. “I like that it’s a really calm environment,” Gravitt said. “It’s really chill, relaxing, anti-stress. It’s a nice place to go after a long day of work, just to kind of release any tension that you might have had throughout the day. (It’s) a nice place to gather with friends and family.”


A full list of menu items (including food and non-kava based drinks), and daily specials, tonics and Kava products to go are available at