These drinks are rooted in fall and winter’s purple (and golden) vegetable.
Is there a more polarizing vegetable than the beet? Devotees boast of its earthy sweetness, while those less than enthusiastic say it just tastes like dirt. If you fall into the former camp, you’ll love these cocktails, which use them in shrubs, syrups and pressed juice. Go on, drink your veggies!
Golden Beet Sour
Recipe courtesy of Tim Smith, Beverage Director, Canyon Kitchen at Lonesome Valley
“Yellow beets work well because they are slightly more sweet than red beets,” Smith explains. “The cocktail finishes slightly tart, but the earth slips through and allows the Bourbon to be appreciated.”
- 2 oz. Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon
- 2 oz. Golden beet shrub (see Note)
- 1 oz. Lemon juice
- 1 Egg white
- Lime wheel, for garnish
Add the first four ingredients to a cocktail shaker, and shake without ice to emulsify. Add ice and shake again until well chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe glass, and garnish with the lime wheel.
For the golden beet shrub:
Bring 8 oz. cider vinegar, ½ cup sugar, 4 oz. water and a pinch of salt to a low boil in a saucepan. Transfer the mixture to a Cryovac sealed bag, add ½ lb. diced golden beets, and sous vide the mixture at 150 degrees for 2 hours. Let the shrub rest and cool, then strain out solids.
Recipe adapted from Natasha Hill, Lead Bartender, Raven & Rose
The unique flavor of aquavit, which gets its flavor from caraway or dill, melds nicely with the earthiness of an herbal shrub infused with beets, rosemary and coriander. Only rim half of the outside of the glass so the imbiber has the option to taste the cocktail with or without salt and pepper.
- 2 oz. Krogstad Aquavit
- ¾ oz. Golden beet, rosemary and coriander shrub (see Note)
- 1 Tbsp. Lemon juice
- Rosemary sprig on fire and lemon spiral, for garnish
- Salt and pepper, for rimming the glass
- Lemon wedge, for rimming the glass
Rub half of the outside of a coupe with the lemon wedge, dip onto a plate with mostly pepper and some salt to coat half of the outside rim, and set aside. Add the aquavit, shrub and lemon juice to a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake until well chilled. Strain into the prepared coupe, and garnish with the rosemary sprig on fire and a lemon spiral.
For the golden beet, rosemary and coriander shrub:
Puree 5 beets, cut into chunks and add 8 oz. apple cider vinegar in a blender. Strain out the solids, pour them into a nonreactive container, and add ½ cup granulated sugar, the chopped leaves from 5 rosemary sprigs, 3 tablespoons of chopped cilantro, and a teaspoon of salt. Let steep for a day at room temperature, add salt or pepper if necessary, then steep another day. Strain out solids, and store the shrub in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.
The Ottoman Cartel
Recipe courtesy of Bart Cannizzaro, Byblos Miami
Barberries are prized in Persian cuisine for the overly sour flavor they add to rice pilaf and chicken dishes; here, they are infused into a syrup with several kinds of chilies. They play nicely off a soda made with beet juice, and the cooked agave flavor of silver Tequila.
- 1 oz. Spiced barberry syrup (see Note)
- 1 oz. Lime juice
- 2 oz. Tequila Avión Silver
- 3 oz. Beet soda (see Note)
- Lime wheel, for garnish
- Marigold flowers, for garnish
Add the barberry syrup, lime juice and tequila to a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake until well chilled. Add the beet soda to the shaker and stir gently. Strain into a Collins glass over fresh ice, top with crushed ice, and garnish with a lime wheel and marigold flowers.
For the beet soda:
Combine 2 parts fresh beet juice with 1 part soda water in a soda siphon. Carbonate and chill until ready to use.
For the spiced barberry syrup:
Combine ½ pint barberries, 4 dried ancho chilies, 15 Chile de árbol, 5 cups of water, and a dash of salt in a large pot, and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Slowly add 6 cups of sugar while stirring. Remove it from the heat, let cool, and strain out solids.
Recipe courtesy of Jacob Fuhr, Beverage Manager, Cru Café; Image: Paul Cheney
Fuhr loves this drink because of its seasonality. “It just doesn’t work when the ambient temperature is above 60 degrees,” he admits. Roasting the beets before juicing them lends a sweet and savory flavor that you just don’t get by boiling them.
- 2 oz. Bulleit Bourbon
- 1 oz. Roasted beet juice (see Note)
- ½ oz. Lemon juice
- ½ oz. Ginger syrup (see Note)
- Smacked basil leaf, for garnish
Add the first four ingredients to a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake until well chilled. Strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass, and garnish with the smacked basil.
For the roasted beet juice:
Wash and dry 4 pounds of beets, then toss them in a neutral cooking oil like canola, vegetable or safflower. Roast in a high-sided roasting pan covered with foil at 375 degrees for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick can be easily inserted and removed. Let beets cool to the touch and juice them in a high-powered juicer. Strain to remove excess solids, and store the juice in the refrigerator.
For the ginger syrup:
Combine 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar and 5 slices peeled ginger in a saucepan. Simmer until the sugar dissolves, then remove from the heat. Steep for 30 minutes or until desired flavor is reached, then strain out solids. Store the syrup in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Unnamed Beet Cocktail
Recipe courtesy of Gillian White, Bar Director, Meauxbar
Cocktails at Meauxbar don’t have names, as staff prefers to highlight a base spirit followed by the rest of the ingredients. This drink is under the “Bright & Cool Vodka” section of the list; berries, lemon and cucumber definitely lighten up the flavor profile.
- ½ oz. Cucumber vodka
- ½ oz. Lemon juice
- ½ oz. Strawberry-beet shrub (see Note)
- ½ oz. Bénédictine
- 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
- Herbsaint, for rinse
- Lemon twist, for garnish
- Cucumber ribbon, for garnish
Pour a little Herbsaint into a rocks glass, swirl to coat it, and pour out the excess. Add the first five ingredients to a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake until well chilled. Strain into the prepared rocks glass over fresh ice, express a lemon peel over the drink and discard it, and garnish with the cucumber ribbon.
For the strawberry-beet shrub:
Place 2 pints of strawberries (cored and sliced in half), 32 oz. sugar, 1 tablespoon ground ginger, and the zests of 2 oranges, 2 lemons and 2 limes in a medium-sized container. Let macerate for at least 30 minutes, stirring a few times to incorporate. Peel 2 medium-sized beets, cut them into smaller segments, and pulse them in a food processor along with 16 oz. balsamic vinegar. Put the strawberry-sugar mixture in a large pot on low to medium heat and allow it to warm up and bubble slightly until the berries break down. Turn the heat to low, add the beet and balsamic vinegar mixture, and continue to stir a few times on low heat for around 20 minutes. Remove it from the heat, strain out the solids and discard the pulp, allow the shrub to cool, and put in containers. Store it in the refrigerator for up to several months.
The Beet Goes On
Recipe courtesy of Damien Breaw, Lead Bartender, The 404 Kitchen
"Beets serve as a fun and season-appropriate ingredient,” Breaw notes. “[They are] both subtle and flavorful, providing an earthy, rich, and sweet component to your holiday cocktail.”
- 1 ½ oz. Papa’s Pilar Blonde Rum
- ¾ oz. Beet juice
- ¼ oz. Simple syrup
- ¼ oz. Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao
- Dash Bittermens ‘Elemakule Tiki Bitters
- 2 Rose petals, for garnish
Add the first five ingredients to a cocktail glass, add ice, and stir to combine. Strain into a coupe and garnish with two rose petals.
Recipe courtesy of Tracy Fabricante, Head Bartender, P.S. Kitchen; Image: Michael Tulipan
“The combination of beet juice and smoked whisky provide the drink with more depth and earthiness,” Fabricante says. “Using vegetables in cocktails is great because they bring out certain tasting notes that many fruits don't have."
- 2 oz. Rozelieures Single Malt Whisky G.Rozelieures Smoky Collection
- 2 oz. Freshly pressed beet juice
- 1 oz. Orange juice
- ¾ oz. Bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup (Wood VT Syrup Company, or another)
- 2-3 dashes Citrus bitters (The Bitter Truth Orange Bitters, or another)
- 4 Raspberries
- Flamed orange peel, for garnish
In a cocktail shaker, muddle the raspberries. Add the remaining ingredients (except garnish), add ice, and shake until well chilled. Double-strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice, and garnish with a flamed orange peel.
Recipe courtesy of Leyla Javadov, Owner and Chef, Café 21
Like all the drinks and dishes on the menu, this cocktail from the all-natural restaurant and lounge in San Diego’s Gaslamp District is made from scratch. It uses both a local gin and fruit liqueur from Greenbar Distillery in Los Angeles, and a housemade shrub with beets and plump juicy blueberries.
- 1 oz. Blueberry and beet shrub (see Note)
- 1 oz. Lemon juice
- 1 oz. CITY Bright Gin
- 1 oz. FRUITLAB Ginger Liqueur
- Beet chip, ginger chip and micro greens, for garnish
Add all ingredients except the garnish to a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake until well chilled. Strain into a coupe and garnish with the beet and ginger chips, and the microgreens.
For the blueberry and beet shrub:
Add 1 cup blueberries (sliced in half), 1 cup peeled, cubed beets, 1 ½ cups balsamic vinegar, and 1 ½ cups simple syrup to a nonreactive container. Let macerate for 1 week, then strain out solids. Store the shrub in the refrigerator.
Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits and lifestyle writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on Twitter and Instagram @kmagyarics.