From garlic beer to kale cocktails, vegetables are taking over the bar. The latest example is the Deadly Nightshade, an eggplant-based drink at New York’s Henry, A Liquor Bar. “I’ve always been of the opinion that nothing’s out of bounds in a cocktail as long as it’s edible,” says its creator Ryan Chetiyawardana.
To make the drink, he splits eggplants, coats them in Demerara sugar, then roasts them to bring out their sweetness and extract moisture. The roasted halves are pureed with the skin (for color as well as “gentle bitterness and vegetal-ness”), mixed with a touch of sugar and water and strained multiple times. He combines the silky puree with "autumnal" Barcardi 8 year-old rum, Lillet Blanc, which adds lightness and acidity, lemon juice and an egg white. The cocktail is shaken, strained into a coupette and garnished with an eggplant crisp.
Chetiyawardana, who is British and spends most of his time in London, took inspiration from Americans' enthusiasm for eggplant in everyday dishes. “In the UK, we just have it in things like moussaka and baba ghanoush,” he says. He does, however, get protests from locals who claim to detest it. “Then they give the cocktail a go and they like the characteristics,” he says. It’s the perfect—or at least the booziest—way to change the minds of those who eschew eggplant.
Here, Chetiyawardana recommends more unexpected, cocktail-appropriate vegetables.
Beets: “Beets have a nice sweet earthiness,” he says. “Tequila comes to mind or mezcal, which also have some of that. You can add things that have an herbal edge. Think about what beets are usually paired with: dill or caraway so a gin or an aquavit would also be really nice.”
Porcini Mushrooms: “I’ve done a pairing with gin and porcini mushrooms,” Chetiyawardana says. “I used dried mushrooms and I stirred them with a martini and strained them off. The mushrooms can give a really nice background of smoky earthiness to a drink. You have to be very subtle with mushrooms or else you will end up with a drink that won’t be very pleasant.”
Peas and Arugula: “With the peas you get a nice sweet greenness and with the arugula you get a green peppery bite,” he says. “Using those greener notes with something sweet or a little bit spicy can be really nice. I think they work with white spirits like white rums, vodkas and gins where you get that freshness and you get that nice green bite.”
Sweet Potato and Pumpkin: “The best way to marry those is with other golden flavors like bourbon. For both sweet potato and pumpkin, you first need to draw the sweetness out by roasting them or boiling them or steaming them.”