Local Libations: The Copper
by Andrew States, photos by Han Shan
It rained like mad today. The streets were wet and gutted by wind and terrifying to traverse. As evening fell, the wind eased up, the rain stopped and the first of December turned unseasonably warm. The battered trees clung to the very last of their leaves, the bulbs of street lights blooming in the branches. It wasn’t where I thought the night would end up. This morning, the sound of rain and wind was enough to keep me indoors for an extra forty-five minutes. Now, calm prevails. Seeing the inclusion of beets in Brianna’s Punta Mona Spring Roll recipe brought to mind a similar reversal, this one of opinions rather than of weather.
I didn’t used to like beets very much, but I suppose that can be expected from a kid. In the kitchens I grew up around, beets were gelatinous tubes, ribbed by the inside of a can, terrible looking, bitter and cold. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would choose to place something of that nature in their mouth. It looked as though it might be alive, some alien creature quivering and shaking as it glistened. Thanks largely to vegetarian friends I eventually tasted real, fresh, beets and found them to be earthy and distinct. Nothing tastes like a beet. Similarly, I once found gin easily avoidable. Recently, and again due to the influence of wiser comrades, I’ve learned to enjoy good gin quite a lot.
Combining the particular flavors found in beets and the tastes peculiar to gin seemed like a naturally interesting pairing. Gin draws its primary flavor from the juniper berry which gives it its coniferous flavor. After that, a distiller adds their personal botanical mixture to give the gin its specific flavor profile. I thought the citrus notes explicit to Breuckelen Gin would mix well with the sweet, soil-tinged character of the beets and, more pointedly, the beet simple syrup.
After scrounging around the internet, I was able to find a way to extract juice from a beet without a juicer. Using heat, time, and a cheese grater, I was able to put together a beet based simple syrup which would nicely compliment the smooth drinking Breuckelen Gin (which you might remember from Han Shan’s Departure cocktail). Blending the beet juice with honey, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper made for a spicy, sweet, tincture that would work well with most liquor. With just the gin and the beet syrup the drink was too sweet and I struggled with what to do next. I met up with Han and we mulled things over. Utilizing his impressive home bar and extensive knowledge we experimented with several different flavors of bitters and ended up choosing Peychaud’s for its hints of anise. Still not quite there, we took a look at our available vermouth. I’d brought with me my Vya sweet, but all we had on hand was Dolin for our dry. Dolin is an excellent dry vermouth, but I was trying, and in this case failing, to keep the ingredients local. We used half an ounce of each vermouth. After a slow stir, I took a sip of the deep red drink and was immediately surprised by how refreshing and unique it was. It was as distinct, as particular to itself as the ingredients that went into it.
As the day ends, I find myself grateful for the unexpected changes tossed my way in the form of warm winter days or opinions about dark red vegetables and the liquors of old enemies. I wanted to call this one The Bloodhound, but there’s already a million drinks called that. Instead, I’ll name it after a bloodhound I always liked. This one is called The Copper. Enjoy.
Prep time: 2 hours, including beet simple syrup
Yield: 1 serving
Note: The beet simple syrup recipe makes about 2 cups of syrup – enough for a bunch of cocktails, store in the fridge.
Tools: Shaker or mixing glass, plate, cloth, sauce pan, strainer, knife, tin foil, spoon, measuring cup and measuring spoons.
- 2 1/2 oz. Breukelen Gin
- 3/4 oz. beet syrup
- 1/2 oz. Vya Sweet Vermouth
- 1/2 oz. Dolin Dry Vermouth
- 3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
Here’s a link to the preparation of the beet simple syrup. I modified the recipe for my tastes but what’s important is how to cook the beets. After the simple syrup has cooled you can go on to make the cocktail.
- Into a mixing glass or shaker filled with ice, add 2 1/2 oz of Breukelen Gin.
- Add 3/4 oz of beet syrup.
- Add 1/2 oz of Vya Sweet Vermouth.
- Add 1/2 oz of Dolin Dry Vermouth
- Stir until contents are mixed and cold.
- Pour into chilled glass.
- Garnish with a beet leaf.
- Drink up.