28 December 2011

Benito's Beet Shrub Cocktail

A man walks into the bar and says, "Barkeep, I'm in the mood for something classic, something that goes back to the colonial era." The bartender grins and replies, "We have hard cider and rye whiskey, both of which were quite popular at the time. I can also make you a flip or a nog of some sort..." The man shakes his head and says, "No, just mix some moonshine with pickled beet juice and that'll hit the spot." Shortly thereafter, the man was thrown out of the bar and onto the sidewalk.

Surprisingly, this isn't as weird a request as it sounds. A shrub is an old-fashioned syrup made from ripe fruit, sugar, and vinegar. It was a great way to preserve fruit and shrubs served a variety of purposes in the kitchen and the bar. I had a jar of pickled beets that was almost emptied of beet slices but still had a lot of delicious liquid in it. The ingredients were simple: sugar, beets, vinegar... Not an official shrub, but it'll do, and I love the flavor. Thousands of years ago, lower class Roman soldiers had to drink vinegar instead of wine. These days it's a trendy cocktail ingredient. No telling what folks will be using two thousand years from now.

Benito's Beet Shrub Cocktail
2 shots Moonshine (or 80 proof clear liquor of your choice)
½ shot Brandy
½ shot Pickled Beet Brine

Combine ingredients in shaker with ice. Shake thoroughly and strain into a cocktail glass. Enjoy the magenta beet stains on your tablecloth.

I considered calling this a "Devil's Cosmopolitan" but I really like beets and didn't want to impugn them. As weird as this thing sounds, the flavors and aromas really balance out well: the moonshine, brandy, and beet brine are all a little sweet, but the vinegar in the brine balances that out. And then the beet flavor provides both a beautiful color and a little earthiness that you more often associate with whiskey cocktails. This will never catch on or be popular, but if you find yourself with the ingredients lying around, I'd suggest giving it a try. When it comes to brine-based cocktails, this one can't be beet.


fredric koeppel said...

love the shot glass ...

Benito said...


It's a gift from my friend Paul, who brought it back from NYC years ago. I don't use it often because I don't want it to flake or get scratched, but it seemed appropriate here.


Riedel Wine Glasses said...

Most of my friends find my affinity for beets a little weird but we all love a good drink, who doesn't?!... Despite my preference for both beets and alcohol,I'd probably make a modification and use a less abrasive liquor like a Stoli vodka... maybe even a flavored one... Then again, what kind of self proclaimed liquorologist would I be if I didn't try an original recipe... I'll let you know how it goes.