A Surprising Addition to Your Winter Cocktail

Michael Cecconi infuses his vodka with beets.

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For five years Michael Cecconi managed the bar at locavore temple Savoy, where he applied owner Peter Hoffman’s market sensibilities to the contents of cocktails. Here he waxes poetic on a drink to get you through the dark days when the cupboard is bare.

Bears. In the winter the bear rests, as does the beet. At Schrute Farms in Pennsylvania, the harvest is done, and the beets—which, like, bears, grew fat in summer and fall—settle down for a long winter’s nap. Unlike so much fleeting flora, gone with the first frost, beets hibernate all winter in the underground cave of the root cellar, so one need never be without them.

Beets. And should one grow bored of beets (and their constant, taunting presence at the market), I’ve another way to enjoy them: in a cocktail. But not in a churlish, trite or gimmicky way. In a bit of Schrutean rigor, I roast the beets, slice them paper thin and let them transfer their earthy flavor and natural sweetness to vodka. Combine the infused spirit with Tennessee whiskey and Punt e Mes, and a cocktail worthy of the beet is born.

Which beet is best? While there are basically two schools of thought, it boils down to this: Either you like beets or you don’t. Beets come in a variety of shapes and sizes with various levels of sugar and geosmin (the compound that gives beets their earthy taste). The red beet is best for infusing: great color, flavor and you can find them large in the market, so less time cleaning. The striped Chioggia is best for garnish.  In a pinch, and with a little work, any beet(s) can work. You just need to like them enough to want to drink them.

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