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Red in Tooth and Claw

I was at Lucy Brennan’s bar 820 a couple weeks ago and had her cocktail the Ruby, a drink based on beet-infused vodka. It was really good, the earthy flavor of beets is balanced by a nice citrus-sour element. The vodka derives a very interesting sweetness from the beets. And the color is wonderful.

I found instructions for the beet infusion on the blog of Imbibe Magazine in a posting announcing the release of Lucy Brennan’s book Hip Sips.

I scaled the recipe down a little. I used a fifth of vodka (New Deal) and one pound of beets cut in wedges (ninths to twelfths), and let it all soak for four-and-a-half days. On Wednesday I drained the vodka off the beets. What resulted is a deep red-purple liquid that has some translucence. The aroma is of beets, and surprisingly sweet.

I made a quick sour mix of
◇ 4 oz sugar,
◇ 4 oz water,
◇ 2 oz lemon juice, and
◇ 2 oz lime juice.

And then tried the Ruby.

Lucy Brennan’s Ruby
In a cocktail shaker over cracked ice, pour
◇ 3 oz beet-infused vodka and
◇ 1 oz sour mix.
Shake1 to chill, strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a lemon twist.

This was a good drink when the bartender at 820 mixed it, but in my hands I thought it needed a dash of Angostura bitters to bridge the sweetness of the beets with that of the sour mix. It may be that the extra 36hrs of soaking pulled more sugars from the beets.

The color of the beet-infused vodka is amazing. There has got to be some ingredient that will make it look a little more like blood, you know, to appeal to the inner goth in us all. I spied a half a bottle of chianti sitting on the counter from dinner earlier this week …

In a cocktail shaker over cracked ice, pour
◇ 2 oz beet-infused vodka and
◇ 2 oz chianti.
Shake to chill, strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a sprig of thyme and a tiny tomato. Maybe a thin slice of pumpernickel bread.

A little silly, being made from ingredients at hand, but simple and tasty. This would make a good savory drink for a brunch, instead of a Bloody Mary.

There are a number of further directions I mean to take the half liter of beet-infused vodka that remains. The Sub Rosa Tarragon infused vodka sounds like a natural pairing. Dry vermouth, even, should have some qualities that mix well with the beets, it shouldn’t take more than a little time to figure out the proportions. And maybe that Modern Spirits Oregon Black Truffle infused vodka2.

1. Do not allow the shaker to come apart while mixing or else the whole bar will be spattered with lurid red liquor that will raise more questions than you want to answer.
2. Which is on my Christmas list, if you’re so inclined.

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