8 Vegetable-Infused Cocktails That Taste Way Better Than You Think
The increasing awareness of what you're consuming doesn't only apply to reading food labels and asking a waiter where the restaurant sources their beef. It also applies to bar menus, which are featuring more cocktails with vegetables added. (Another hot trend right now? The mocktail.)
"We previously saw a trend of sugar-laden drinks, like daiquiris and lemon drops, that everyone has become familiar with, but as everyone is more aware of health now, we notice those drinks dying in popularity," explains Cristopher Wagner, mixologist and creative director for P.S. Kitchen in New York City. (P.S. did you know you can also make cocktails with tea?)
Stepping in to take their place are farm-to-bar drinks. "Gone are the days of sour mix and margarita mix. People want fresh, real ingredients" in their cocktails, says Wagner. Plus, with more people experimenting with plant-based diets, more bartenders are experimenting with plant-centric drinks. It doesn't hurt that these cocktails also tend to be super Instagram-worthy, he adds.
And while they deliver vibrant flavors and healthy antioxidants, they can help you use the leftover parts of produce. “I like to incorporate beet trimmings, fennel fronds, and carrot ends in drinks,” says Andrew Zerrip, the head bartender at Olmsted in Brooklyn, New York, who created a few of the blends below. “This highlights the seasonality of the cocktails and gives you a new way to experience their complexities.”
Next time you invite the girls over for drinks, try these simple yet slurp-worthy veggie-infused drinks created by Wagner and Zerrip. (But if you want to pretend you crafted them all on your own, we won't tell.)
Fennel Highball, Beet Cocktail, and Carrot Mimosa
These three recipes, courtesy of Zerrip, deliver vibrant flavors and antioxidants with the help of some fresh fall produce. (Use your extra herbs to whip up these healthy herb cocktails next time.)
- 1/2 cup fennel
- 1 oz. blanc vermouth
- 1 1/2 oz. vodka
- 1/4 oz dry vermouth
- 1/4 oz. absinthe
- 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 1/2 oz. club soda
- Fennel fronds for garnish
Roughly chop the outer layer of a fennel bulb and some of the stalk until you have 1/2 cup chopped fennel. Place in a cocktail shaker and add the remaining ingredients. Shake vigorously until the liquid is cold and strain through a fine sieve into a highball glass filled with crushed ice. Top with club soda. Garnish with fennel fronds.
- 1/2 cup simple syrup
- 1 lemon rind
- 2 large sprigs thyme
- 2 crushed juniper berries
- 2 oz. London dry gin
- 3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 oz. Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
- 1/2 oz. freshly pressed beet juice
- 1/2 oz. preserved lemon syrup
- Beet greens and slice for garnish
In a blender, combine simple syrup with the rind of 1 preserved lemon (pith removed), thyme, and juniper berries. Blend until very smooth, about 2 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve into a small bowl; discard solids. In a cocktail shaker, combine gin, lemon juice, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, beet juice, and lemon syrup. Fill with ice and shake vigorously until cold. Fill a rocks glass with ice and strain cocktail into glass. Garnish with beet greens and a beet slice.
- Lemon wedge
- Carrot sugar (recipe below)
- 3 oz. prosecco
- 1 1/2 oz. freshly pressed carrot juice
- 1 1/2 oz. fresh orange juice
- 1/2 oz. elderflower liqueur
- Baby carrot for garnish
To make the cocktail: Rub the rim of a wineglass with a lemon wedge and dip it in carrot sugar (recipe below). Fill the glass with ice and pour prosecco, carrot juice, orange juice, and elderflower liqueur over the ice. Stir and serve mimosa with a halved baby carrot as garnish.
To make the carrot sugar: At Olmsted, Zerrip dehydrates leftover carrot pulp to create the sugar. You can easily do the same at home: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Peel and very thinly slice 3 medium carrots. Bake until carrots are mostly dry and bright orange, 20 to 25 minutes. (Watch carefully to prevent browning.) Let cool, then pulse carrots in a food processor with 1/4 cup organic cane sugar and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt until finely ground.
The Pearly Potato
Why it works: "The lightness of spiced rum mixed with the finish of vanilla complements the richness of a sweet potato," says Wagner.
- 2 oz. spiced rum
- 1/4 cup sweet potato puree
- 0.5 oz. grapefruit juice
- 1 oz. pear juice
Shake all ingredients and serve in a highball glass over ice.
Piña y Palta
Why it works: Don't limit your avocado to guac and smoothies. "The oak and smoothness of añejo tequila is balanced out with the creaminess of an avocado," says Wagner. (P.S. Did you know you can hide vegetables in your dessert recipes, too?)
- 1 small piece ginger
- 2 oz. jalapeño-infused añejo tequila
- 1 oz. pineapple juice
- 1 small wedge avocado
- Salt (to rim glass)
Muddle ginger in a cocktail shaker. Add remaining ingredients. Shake vigorously and strain into martini glass rimmed with salt.
Why it works: Vodka is a bit of a blank canvas, so you can experiment with it. "With vodka's clean and crisp flavor, I like to pair it with more interesting ingredients in a play on a Bloody Mary," says Wagner.
- 2 oz. vodka
- 2 tomatillos
- 3 radishes
- 1 oz. Worcestershire sauce
- Cracked black pepper
- 1 dash sriracha
- Garnish: 1 celery stalk
Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a glass and garnish with celery stalk.
The Stalky Botanist
Why it works: Say what? "The notes in gin are complex and you want to pair it with a smooth vegetable," he says. He likes asparagus because while it isn't a common cocktail component, "it really adds an interesting layer when paired with gin."
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 5 to 7 stalks asparagus, broken into pieces
- 2.5 oz. gin
- 1 oz. vermouth
- 0.75 oz. lemon juice
Bring water and sugar to a low boil in a pot. Add asparagus and let boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat to allow to cool. Strain and reserve simple syrup in an airtight container for up to two weeks in the refrigerator. To make cocktail, shake 1 oz asparagus simple syrup with remaining ingredients. Serve in a martini glass.
Why it works: Whiskey needs a hearty vegetable that stands up to it and also complements the spirit. Wagner says beets are a perfect pairing.
- 4 raspberries
- 1.5 oz. beet juice
- 2 oz. whiskey
- 1 oz. orange juice
- 0.5 oz. maple syrup
Muddle raspberries in a cocktail shaker. Add remaining ingredients, shake, and strain into a rocks glass.