If it looks like wine, smells like wine, tastes like wine and is even poured like win, it must be wine ... right?
Not in the case of "beet wine," a drink that mimics all of the nuanced properties of a good glass of red, but has none of the booze. It's the perfect option for those opting out of alcohol at a restaurant but still wanting to enjoy the convivial aspects of the wine drinking ritual.
An alternative consumers have been thirsting after
Those who choose not to drink are usually stuck with sipping on soda, water or juice — a fact that frustrated Eamon Rockey, the general manager and bar wizard at Betony in Midtown Manhattan. "While some places do offer juices that feature the same grape varietals as wine, they still taste like preschool snack-time beverage," he told Mic. So a couple of years ago, Rockey decided to create something better.
Rockey set out to imitate a great glass of booze-less pinot noir. His faux wine contains no grapes, but instead stars beet juice, which has a deep red color and an earthy but slightly sweet taste.
After adding a bit of green apple juice for acidity, Rockey allows the mixture to clarify to yield the clean look of wine. For a natural tannin element, a signature flavor of pinot noir, Rockey adds oolong tea, which he over brews before adding it to the clarified juice, all before chilling the mixture it to the right temperature.
"When thinking about what flavors one might find in a glass of red wine, I decided that beet and black currants pair well together as a wine imitation," said Nick Duble, the bar director of Atera in New York City, via email. The upscale restaurant is renowned for its tasting menu, and serves a beet wine as part of the restaurant's "temperance," or alcohol-free, beverage pairing. Like Rockey, Duble makes the faux wine with the red root vegetable — and no grapes.
Duble's beet wine recipe differs from Rockey's in many ways, however. Duble and his team blend beets with black currants instead of apples, as well as a bit of simple syrup (for sweetness) in a blender. The resulting juice is clarified before the final step. Atera's beet wine is then aged, as many traditional wines are, for several days before being bottled.
So why drink beet wine?
"From a visual perspective, you really can't tell that it's not wine," Rockey said. "I have a number of customers, especially women that are pregnant but don't want people to know that they are not drinking, that order the beet wine."
But, according to these restauranteurs, even wine enthusiasts are swapping their standard glass of red for the "nuanced adult beverage," Rockey said. "It's something they can really enjoy with their food and it's not overwhelming and doesn't compete with the flavors in a number of dishes."
Plus, the drink is comparatively healthy and won't give you a hangover, Rockey noted with a laugh. Beet juice is shown to improve blood pressure and possibly decrease the risk of heart disease, according to Health. The root is high in nutrients like iron, vitamin B, copper and potassium as well, so don't be afraid to knock back a glass or two.
You can expect to see beet wine and other thoughtful mocktails pop up on menus across the globe. Euromonitor International, a market research firm, noted in May that the world is drinking less alcohol as a whole. This presents a greater market for smart, non-alcoholic beverages. And while the faux wine is not currently available in stores, it's something that could be made at home with a bit of patience, some trial and error and a whole lot of beets.