I’m always on the lookout for festive, colorful cocktails this time of year. Unfortunately, such cocktails are usually laden with sugary syrups and fruit juices and are inevitably too sweet for my tastes. Last month, my friend Jen hosted a fabulous cocktail party. As soon as I arrived, she was urging me to sample some of her beet-infused vodka. I’ll admit that I was initially shocked. I’ve heard of vodka being infused with all kinds of different things: vanilla, citrus, blueberries, even exotics like kaffir lime leaves, but never beets (in hindsight, I probably should have seen this coming—people are putting beets into everything these days!)
Almost immediately, I began warming up to the idea. I’m not much of a vodka drinker, but this combination sounded unusual and I could picture myself becoming a convert. Jen whipped up a drink for me using a hefty pour of beet vodka, fresh lemon and lime juice, simple syrup and a splash of raspberry liqueur. It was seriously beety…and absolutely delicious! The sweet raspberry flavor was perfectly offset by the earthiness of the beets. It tasted great and seemed almost healthy. Beets and citrus are supposed to be good for your liver so it makes perfect sense to mix them with alcohol. I started referring to this drink as “The Detox”!
The next morning, my eyes drifted up toward a bottle of vodka that had been gathering dust on top of my fridge for, oh, the last five years or so. It was time to put it to good use. I headed down to the farmers’ market to pick up some fresh red beets for my own beet-infused vodka. Making beet vodka couldn’t be easier. Simply add three or four peeled and quartered beets to a jar, fill with vodka and let sit for three days, stirring occasionally. Strain out the beets and you’re done! Easy and entertaining too. It’s fun to watch the vodka go from a lovely fuchsia color to a deep, rich red. You can pour the vodka into a nice bottle if you wish although it looks quite striking in the the jar—like something you might find in a mad scientist’s kitchen or a biology lab.
Now that my beet-infused vodka was ready, it was time for some experimentation. First up, a beety Manhattan for Robert. For this, I simply replaced the vermouth in my Manhattan recipe with beet vodka. This makes for a pretty serious drink: dry, spicy and earthy with none of the sweetness that vermouth normally provides. Robert likes hearty drinks so he enjoyed it. For myself, I went in a completely different direction. I placed a small rosemary sprig and a few slices of fresh ginger into a cocktail shaker along with beet vodka, lime juice and a touch of simple syrup. I shook it up, strained it into a chilled martini glass and garnished with a rosemary sprig. To intensify the aroma of the rosemary, I quickly ran a lit match along its needles before dropping it in the glass. This isn’t necessary, but it’s a nice touch. The piney fragrance of the rosemary and the heat and spice from the ginger complemented the earthy beets well. With its beautiful ruby red color and enticing pine scent, my beet-rosemary cocktail proved to be a perfect choice for this holiday season!