People have strong opinions when it comes to beets. Some people love them. Some people only love them when accompanied by chèvre. Some people can’t stand them at all. I’m in the first camp. I love them roasted and tossed in a vinaigrette, smothered in a cream sauce, pickled, stewed in borscht — even shredded and from a can! But most of all, I love them infused in a bottle of vodka.
I had a delicious beet vodka cocktail at Marrow in Tacoma a while back. It was beety in the best way — ruby red, earthy, and sweet. So I was thrilled when I saw the recipe in Bon Appétit’s March issue for beet-infused vodka and the beetnik martini.
My trip to California to catch up with Mitch and Stephanie proved the perfect opportunity to buy some booze at a great price. Because my suitcase was pretty packed by the time we made it to Costco, I opted for the smallest bottle I could find, which happened to be Crater Lake vodka. Does this recipe really need artisanal quality vodka? Probably not. But I wasn’t complaining.
I was a little nervous about dedicating this much vodka for this recipe. What if it ended up just tasting like dirt? The recipe said to let it marinate for 5 to 7 days in the fridge. How would I know when it tasted like it should?
Well…such a procedure necessitates a taste-test! I tried a spoonful from my jug-o-booze at day 5. It had a lovely beet fragrance (I’m not the only one who thinks this is possible, right?), but kind of a thin taste. So I went all the way to day 7. It comforted me all week just knowing that I had a huge jar of vodka in the fridge filling up with beety goodness. By day 7, it tasted delicious!
The original recipe called for 1 tablespoon of the ginger simple syrup per 1/4 cup of vodka, but I found there was a better bite when I used a scant tablespoon, or 1 1/2 tablespoons for two cocktails. I like my booze to taste boozy, you know? This is 1/4 cup of vodka we’re talking about. With more syrup, the boozy bite was lost. Also, although I read the recipe a dozen times, typing it up right now is the first time I noticed that it includes lime juice. I never once added it. I imagine it would be stellar. If you include it, you’ll probably want the full amount of ginger syrup. I guess it’s time for me to make round 2!
By the way, the prep picture up top is Jack’s, and the lovely coupe glass photo is his as well. And yes, two generations of Knottinghams made and approve of this recipe. Also, notes for this recipe say it keeps for a month. But as they say on Arrested Development, “It’s vodka. It goes bad once it’s opened.”
adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2013
Vodka and syrup
- 6 medium red beets (about 2 1/2 pounds), scrubbed, trimmed
- 1 750-ml bottle vodka
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons grated peeled ginger
- 3 ounces fresh lemon juice
- 3 ounces fresh lime juice
- 12 lemon slices
Vodka and syrup
Cook beets in a large saucepan of boiling water until tender, 1-1 1/4 hours. Drain; let cool slightly. Peel and slice. Combine warm beets and vodka in a large 1 1/2-quart jar (save vodka bottle to store finished product). Cover; chill for at least 5 days and up to 1 week. Strain into a medium bowl; discard beets. Pour beet vodka back into reserved bottle. Cover and chill.
Bring sugar, ginger, and 3/4 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Let cool. Strain ginger syrup into a medium jar; discard ginger. Cover and chill. DO AHEAD: Beet vodka and ginger syrup can be made 1 month ahead. Keep chilled separately.
For each cocktail, combine 1/4 cup beet vodka, scant 1 tablespoon ginger syrup, and 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice (the original recipe calls for an equal amount of lime juice — I somehow missed this each time I made it! Include if you like. It’s still good without it. If you use it, you’ll want a full tablespoon of syrup). Shake vigorously until cocktail shaker is very cold. Strain drink into a coupe or Martini glass or whatever you have. Float a lemon slice on top (and add a giant ice cube if it makes you happy).