Tonic Brings Miami Beach Bad Boy Back from the Dead

Brad Beckerman, 28, wasn’t always the “wheatgrass-drinking, meditating vegan” he is today. The former escort service-running, gun-toting, DEA-bribing party boy from Miami Beach just launched his own homemade, holistic blend of tonic, made of -- among ingredients we can’t pronounce -- West Indian sea moss. His PR girl calls the brew "magical," and really, the hocus pocus of it is this: It both increases your sex drive and lowers your stress. (Strangely, vodka is not one of the ingredients.) At the risk of sounding like we want Brad Beckerman to sign our bra strap, it turns out he has a pretty amazing, true story to explain why he came up with the juice.

In his early 20s, Beckerman moved to South Florida (“the sunny place for shady people”) from New York City and began managing Diamonds Strip Club in West Palm Beach. “You don’t get a job like that because you’re a nice boy,” he says. Then things changed. Outside a bar on June 2, 2002, a 92-year-old driver slammed into him, sending him flying 30 feet in the air. It cracked his scull, caused his brain to swell, and sent blood gushing from his ears. Paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene.

When he woke up from a coma in the hospital 13 days later, he was so brain-damaged and drugged-up he believed he was on a cruise ship. “I smacked the nurse’s ass and told her to get me a Stoli on the rocks,” he says. The recovery, from there, was grueling. He had to relearn how to read, undergo knee and back surgery, and revert to living with his folks. Back then, he says, the only thing that helped him get out of bed was this mysterious West Indian sea moss. (Watch a TV interview with him on "The Big Idea" with Donny Deutsch here.

In New York City, he then used his mom’s kitchen to make the juice, and eventually started selling it to friends. In Miami, with a commercial kitchen, Bradford still bottles the stuff himself. Except now folks can find Bradford Tonic in Florida Whole Foods markets, including the Caribbean inspired B-Tonic ($4.99), which contains the sea moss and “tastes like Christmas in a cup -- which we have trademarked.”

Fully recovered -- and armed with a yoga mat instead of a pistol -- Beckerman has a sweeping scar on his dome to show for it.

-- Natalie O'Neill

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