Cocktail of the Week: Beet & Co. from Windsor Court Cocktail Bar, New Orleans
Beet juice tends to be relegated to the same 1970’s health fad corner as wheat germ and kale chips. It happens to be an excellent base for new riffs on classic cocktails, in addition to adding a spectacular purple hue to the usual clear or dark color scheme of cocktails. I have always gone on record as saying the absolute peak of my cocktail life came at the Jade Bar at Scottsdale, Arizona’s Sanctuary on Camelback Resort, where a Gimlet goes to the blissful absurd with beet juice and yuzu juice. If beet juice works in a Gimlet, it must prove worthy too in a pisco sour.
A pisco sour, best known as the national apertif of both Chile and Peru, is a truly perfect drink on its own. A small egg white provides the froth for pisco, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Shake them together, pour into a coupe or a martini glass, top it off with a few dots of Angostura bitters, and there you have a fantastic drink for all occasions. Unlike the martini and its dreaded offspring the choco-tini, the bikini-tini, the berry-tini, and such, pisco sours tend to be straight shots. There’s no reason to add fruit juice to something perfect.
Leave it to the daring, bold vision of Christine Jeanine Nielsen to shake up the pisco sour world. Nielsen to begin with has a daring, bold vision to create a small corner of craft cocktails in the otherwise regular luxury hotel lobby of the Windsor Court. The setting seems more appropriate for afternoon tea than The Lion Amongst Ladies with Damiana and sous-vide “2 hour” kumquat infused tequila. In a city that treasures its classic drinks from the Sazerac to the Vieux Carré, Cure and its new sibling Bellocq are the oasis for craft cocktails. Start adding Nielsen’s creations to that list. Unfortunately almost nobody is noticing yet, but that will certainly change. Old, classic hotels can still have young drinking legs.
Nielsen uses agave in place of simple syrup, providing a bit more of a tangy sweetness instead of a sugary focused one. The beet juice plays perfectly with the subtle taste of pisco, both subdued by the egg white mixed with them. A checker board of Angostura bitters drawn into the egg white froth is a proper cap for this artistic take on one of the world’s premier classic cocktails.
Why is the drink called Beet & Co.? That’s a good question, perhaps a reference to the famed New York bar Death & Co. or going back to the Beat Generation? Whatever it is, it’s hard to believe, but a Beet & Co. beats a traditional pisco sour.