A Cook and a Geek’s Custom Cocktail, featuring Malört
Consider this post a sign of good faith that I’m doing my best to not let this blog lay fallow too long!
Since the posting of my second custom cocktail which was inspired by a Facebook Post of my friend Meagan, the Bacon Van Schmidt, a certain mutual friend of ours has been perhaps a tiny bit jealous and definitely nudging me to make a cocktail after him.
That friend, is Steve.
Given that Steve is from Chicago and gave me my first taste of Malört (a distilled beverage I believe to be associated with hazing new people in Chicago), I decided the right thing to do was make a cocktail involving that rather challenging liquor. While plying his fiancée for ideas, she suggested that I make the use of beets, since even though she thought beets were icky, Steve might like them. With that, I resolved to make a cocktail involving Malört and make my own beet shrub, and hope for the best.
And I resolved to make it a triumph of beet over evil Malört, so that I could call the cocktail the Steve Beets Adversity. Steve, because Steve. Beets, because beet shrub. And adversity? It’s pretty clear what the adversity was here.
Also because puns.
Now to show you on a visual scale the challenge of making a cocktail with Malört, I present to you the Malört face. No, not this face. This package has landed, but full impact has not yet occurred.
This face. Yes, there’s nothing quite like the first time you have Malört. Monika thought it was…. interesting.
And I had no idea I was making this face at the time. I can only imagine this is the feeling Steve has, or anyone from Chicago has, whenever they make someone else try this particular liquor. We’ll call this “I made someone else try Malört for the first time” face.
So, as you can see, I was up against some pretty tough odds. Never let it be said that I ever shrink away from a cooking challenge.
The first thing I had to do was pick the right Malört. I initially thought I’d go with Jeppson’s, but Steve went the extra mile and purchased 4 kinds of Malört. So, after I went over to visit at his place and drink with the Icelandic band Árstíðir, like you do, I tried the Malört.
I tried all four, and recorded my facial reaction, and let Steve pick his favorite reaction. This was that reaction.
For the record, my thoughts were “Ehhh, I’ve had worse.” If you want to see the rest of the reactions, feel free to check out this album.
Second, the shrub. I took a page from Serious Eats’ Michael Dietch and used his method for making cold processed berry shrubs, and applied it to beets. Not quite as much sugar is required, given the amount of sugar that is naturally in a red beet.
Step one, dice the beet.
I like to chop it into “fries” and then slice through those.
Measurement actually isn’t an issue at this stage, but it will be important later.
I tried two methods, with two batches of beets. One, simply coating it, and the other, nearly completely submerging the diced beet in sugar.
Let macerate for a few hours or overnight (more time doesn’t hurt). As you can see, the results were not that different. For the future I recommend that you simply coat the cubes with a healthy amount of sugar in a narrow bowl, so that there isn’t a lot of waste, and you have a purer beet flavor, but adjust as necessary if you prefer a less “beety” shrub.
Strain into a bowl.
If there is excess sugar you missed that didn’t dissolve, pour the strained liquid in and get it all out. There’s no need to waste.
Now here is where measurement is important.
Measure your beet sugar liquid, then combine with an equal measure of apple cider vinegar or some other wine vinegar.
Pour into a sterile jar, shake vigorously, and refrigerate. Shake the jar daily until a week has passed, and you should be good to go.
Note this shrub can be used to fortify some water or club soda for a unique drink if you aren’t into cocktails.
I wanted to see if a simple 1:1 ratio of Besk Malört to Beet shrub would work.
NOPE! It… was better than just Malört…. Maybe.
So I took it several steps further. And it actually went well! Yeah I’m not sure how I made this leap either. It just seemed right.
Into a cocktail shaker, add plenty of crushed ice, a shot of Malört, and a shot of beet shrub, and the juice of half a small lemon.
Shake vigorously and then strain into a tumbler with cracked ice and a garnish of lemon peel.
Top with club soda.
Add a cocktail cherry, perhaps on a toothpick. I prefer these Bourbon Cocktail Cherries to the typical maraschino ones for this particular drink.
Serve, and let guests marvel at the transformation.
I’ll let this picture speak for itself.
And that’s how you make a Steve Beets Adversity. I think it lived up to the name and intention!
But just in case you forgot…
Beet Shrub Recipe
- 1 Medium or large beet, diced
- Sugar to cover
- Apple Cider or Wine Vinegar to match, see recipe.
- Put diced beets into a bowl.
- Coat beets generously with sugar and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let macerate overnight.
- Strain out the beets until all the syrup is drained, and discard diced beets, or reserve for another use.
- Pour syrup into a sterile bottle and refrigerate. Shake bottle daily for a week.
- Keep refrigerated and use as you like!
Steve Beets Adversity
- 1 oz. Malört (Jeppson’s, Besk, Few)
- 1 oz. beet shrub (see above)
- Juice of half a small lemon
- Club soda
- 1 cocktail cherry (bourbon is preferred)
- Lemon peel for garnish
- To a cocktail shaker filled with plenty of ice, add the Malört, beet shrub, and the lemon juice.
- Shake vigorously for several seconds or until your hands are freezing.
- Strain into a tumbler with lots of cracked ice.
- Top with a bit of club soda. (At least two oz. if you’re measuring)
- Garnish with lemon peel and a cocktail cherry