I wish, for your sake, I could tell you this drink sucked. Because it’s easily the most effort I’ve ever expended on a cocktail, and it’d be great if I could tell you that you’re not missing anything by not making it.
But I can’t. This is delicious and well worth the effort, given that it makes the necessities for several rounds.
It starts with a pound of raw red beets. Peel these, wrap them in foil, and bake them at 400’F for an hour. Let them cool, and slice them in half. Rub them with neutral oil, sprinkle them with salt, and then grill them – ideally on a wood or charcoal grill – until you get nice char-marks on both sides. It was raining, so I used a grill pan on the stove… but more about that in a minute.
Once they’ve cooled down again, slice them into 1/4″ chunks and add them to a large-format Mason jar along with 1L of gin.
If you have a sous-vide setup, you’re golden: seal the jar and sous-vide it for 3-4 hours at 140’F. If you don’t have a sous-vide appliance, just let the jar mellow in the fridge for a few days, agitating it gently from time to time.
Assuming you’ve sous-vided, let the jar cool a bit and then chill it overnight.
Next: make a ginger syrup. Chop up maybe 125g of ginger and run it through a juicer. Make the syrup by measuring the resulting juice by volume and adding 150% that volume of sugar (put differently, this is a 3:2 syrup, with 3 parts sugar to 2 parts juice by volume.) Heat that gently to dissolve the sugar, let it sit for an hour to settle, and decant the relatively clear syrup from the ginger sediment at the bottom.
Then, make a honey syrup. That’s easy: stir together 3 parts clear, light honey and 1 part hot water.
Now… if you’re normal, or if you followed instructions and grilled the beets over wood or charcoal, you can strain your beet gin and proceed to make the drink. Your mise en place will look something like this:
If you’re me, however, you’ll experience anticipatory regret at not having done right by your beets. So, you’ll set a cup or so of your beet-gin aside and introduce it to smoke using your Smoking Gun and some alder chips.
Just a few chips will do; you only need to inject a few seconds’ worth of smoke into your jar.
Seal the jar, shake it around, and let it mellow out for 10 minutes or so. Shake it again, and there’s your smoked beet gin.
From this point, it’s straight-ahead mixology.
2 oz. roasted beet-infused gin
½ oz. honey syrup (3:1 honey to water)
¼ oz. ginger syrup (3:2 fine sugar to juiced ginger root)
¾ oz. fresh lemon juice
Tools: shaker, strainer
Garnish: thyme sprig
Add all the ingredients to a shaker and shake with ice to chill. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with thyme.
I made a couple of small alterations to the recipe as written. Our ginger syrup was quite strong, so after making one drink, I reduced the syrup to a teaspoon and that was just right. Second, I used half plain beet gin and half smoked-beet gin. That, too, worked well… but to be honest, the drink is also pretty great without the wood smoke. Some might even find the smoke distracting.
So there you have it. Full credit to Leigh Lacap and the crew at Campfire in Carlsbad, California. This is craft mixology at its best.