When KT Ward walks into the kitchen at Honor Society, he sees piles of possibilities: limes, celery, apples — whatever he thinks might be fused into a stunning cocktail. “We’ve got a lot of cool, fresh ingredients to play with,” Ward says.
It got to the point where chefs Ryan Kelly and Craig Dixon would challenge him to create a cocktail for them out of whatever he found in the kitchen — including a freshly steamed batch of beets. He came up with a cocktail he now calls the Beet Root ($9) by combining beet puree with bourbon, Cynar artichoke liqueur, lemon juice, cinnamon simple syrup and bitters.
Beet Root has been a hit since Honor Society opened five months ago, but it’s never been on the official drink list. It debuts this Wednesday, along with a slew of other drinks that capture Ward’s penchant for fresh and unexpected ingredients.
Here's the recipe:
1.5 ounces Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon
1 ounce steamed beets
.75 ounce Cynar
.5 ounce cinnamon simple syrup
.5 ounce lemon juice
Dash of Angostura bitters
Method: Drop the steamed beets into the bottom of a shaker tin and muddle them until pulverized, releasing the juices. Pour the remaining ingredients on top of the crushed beets. Add ice and shake for 20 seconds, then double-strain the liquid into a double Old Fashioned glass over new ice. Garnish with a Luxardo cherry and a cube of steamed beet.
This is what Ward says about the ingredients he chose for the Beet Root:
Steamed beets: “These beets come from a farm not too far from here,” Ward says. “We’re just trying to make sure that people are getting the freshest thing we can give them.”
Four Roses bourbon is an 80-proof Kentucky whiskey blended from ten different bourbon recipes and aged about six and a half years. “It’s a really good, mild, not-too-oaky bourbon,” Ward says. “It just makes a great cocktail. It lets all the flavors of the vegetables really shine through.”
Cynar is a bittersweet infusion of 13 herbs and plants, predominantly artichoke, made in Italy since 1952. “I’ve always liked it,” Ward says. “It’s one of my favorite drinks. It’s got a nice sweetness to it. It’s got that artichoke essence in there, which pairs well with the earthiness of the beets.”
Cinnamon simple syrup: “We make it here,” Ward explains. After combining a quart of water with an equal part of sugar and heating it, Ward adds five sticks of Ceylon cinnamon (the real deal; not the supermarket variety).
Lemon juice: “It was way too sweet,” Ward says of the first versions of the recipe. “I just needed something to balance it all out and brighten it up a little bit.” Done.
“I hope it’s surprising,” Ward says. “We just want to offer something different, but it’s a drink that can become somebody’s favorite. It’s one of those drinks that you sell to somebody and tell them that if they don’t like it, you’ll buy it for them. And then they try it and they order three more.”
Food Pairing: Ward recommends Honor Society’s cedar plank salmon ($12.75), a sustainably-farmed salmon cooked on a cedar plank in the kitchen's pizza oven. “The fish pairs really well with the earthiness of the beets,” Ward says. “It’s definitely a contrast, but it’s a balance that I really enjoy.” He also recommends a cold side of butternut squash ($3.25 small/$6.00 large), which is tossed in a miso vinaigrette and served with dried cranberries, kale and pumpkin seeds.