Beets have been busy lately. They've been burying their humdrum reputation and stepping out as an ingredient of the moment. The very thing that makes them a nuisance to home cooks—the whole "your kitchen looks like a blood bath" thing—is a boon to cocktail makers, as it helps produce striking, vibrant-hued drinks.
The sweet, earthy taste of a beet is the perfect complement to warming spirits like bourbon and Scotch, but takes on a more fresh, vegetal character when paired with gin. Plus, thanks to their naturally blood-red color, beet cocktails are a sophisticated answer to the Halloween drink conundrum.
With the same flavor base as The Penicillin—lemon, ginger, and Scotch—the foundation of this drink is already a delicious antidote to a long, cold day. Adding a shot of beet juice just ups the curative ante. This is a great cocktail for anyone who is just beginning to get into Scotch. The blended Scotch I use here (Black Bottle Islay Scotch) has a lot of great smoky, spicy character, but the earthy beets and the sweet, snappy ginger liqueur ensure that the whisky doesn't take over the drink.
Although this drink is served over ice, it still packs a toasty punch thanks to layers of warm flavors. Bulleit Bourbon is a great choice here, pairing well with the warm caramel and spicy cinnamon flavor of the Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth. Juice from beets and carrots (both of which are botanically taproots) provides the red color, of course, and a robust sweetness. A dash of tangy balsamic vinegar balances everything out and highlights the savory side of this drink.
The Hot Pink
My favorite beet salad has a healthy dose of horseradish. Although I've made many variations of it based on what I have in the fridge at any given time, the dressing always has a splash of apple cider vinegar. Using my favorite way to eat beets as inspiration, I created a savory shrub with beets, celery, and horseradish. The finished product here has just a touch of heat from the horseradish, so experiment with bumping up the amount if you'd like more of a kick. The celery provides a light, fresh component to the heavier root vegetables. Choose a bold gin like Tanqueray for this cocktail, which can stand up to the aggressive flavors in the shrub.