With the rise of the savory, vegetable-based cocktails, local bartenders get creative.
The carrot juice in Cuba Libre’s Organic Garden Mojito lends it a splash of color and added appeal for health-conscious diners.
The Bloody Mary, the spicy tomato juice-based mainstay of brunches and mornings after, has long appealed to tipplers for the savory characteristics that make it conducive to pairings with bacon, omelets, and pancakes. But new veggie-laden cocktails—think beets, carrots, kale, and celery—are popping up all over the DC area, and they’re enticing enough to add to any meal or to enjoy on their own.
“A great cocktail is composed of a great aroma, a vibrant color, and a complex yet identifiable taste,” says Doug Abedje, a partner in the grilled cheese bar GCDC (1730 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 202-393-4232). “Vegetables inherently add these qualities. There are a variety of ways that the intense flavors of a particular vegetable can be showcased by the right combination of spirits, bitters, syrups, and even garnishes…. It’s not uncommon now to see a bar menu with fennel syrup and carrot juice combined with locally distilled gin and a chef-driven pickled garnish.” Not to mention the unique texture that vegetables add due to their fiber.
Take the Gazpacho Tipple at The Fainting Goat (1330 U St. NW, 202-735-0344), which combines potato vodka, fino sherry, and gazpacho with a micro-arugula garnish. Last fall, bar manager Ken Curry mixed together puréed roasted butternut squash, Dolin dry and blanc vermouths, tarragon, and Prairie Organic vodka. “The vermouth shares some of the savory elements with squash, so the result is much more approachable than one might think,” Curry explains. “When I come up with an idea for a cocktail that includes a vegetable, it usually starts with something I enjoy eating.”
On the other hand, Cuba Libre (801 Ninth St. NW, Ste. A, 202-408-1600) dreamed up the Organic Garden Mojito, which blends organic rum, carrot juice, light agave nectar, lime juice, and basil, as a way to “appeal to the health-conscious, organic-eating, and overall adventurous guest,” says general manager Amnon Pick.
Keep the Beet in Thyme, at Poste Moderne Brasserie (555 Eighth St. NW, 202-783-6060), is a crowd-pleasing mixture of thyme-infused blanco tequila, fresh-roasted beet juice, lemon juice, simple syrup, and paprika, which creates an unlikely depth of flavor. “When you’re making a vegetable cocktail, you don’t want to go all savory,” advises James Nelson, former head bartender at Poste. “Beets are naturally sweet, which makes it easier to drink. The color is also very vibrant.”
While many District bartenders say that clear spirits—such as gin, Milagro blanco tequila, and vodka—are the easiest to mix with veggies, Adam Bernbach of 2 Birds 1 Stone (1800 14th St. NW, Lower Level) embraces the brown ones. His Brit Meaw is a mix of “lushly creamy,” house-made carrot soda and rye whiskey, which has harmonious vanilla, oak, and cinnamon notes. Hungry yet? Grab a drink.