Timothy Barber
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I’LL be honest, I wasn’t terrifically enthused with the idea of cocktails combining booze with, er, root vegetables. Actually not just root vegetables, a variety of veg, though with parsnip and beetroot playing a couple of starring roles. I was picturing gloopy veggie soup with gin stirred in as I climbed the stairs to Roast, the bar and restaurant overlooking Borough Market.

However, a few things were piquing my curiosity. Firstly, if you’re going to put vegetables in drinks, Borough Market is probably the place to do it. Secondly, for a bit of time veggie ingredients have been popping up in the more creative fringes of New York’s boho cocktail scene, and anything that’s a hit in NYC inevitably ends up a hit here sooner or later.

Well, the sooner the better, as far as I’m concerned. A perky pink aperitif (the Pink & Perky, actually) with gin, bitters and rhubarb puree? Terrific. Hendricks gin mixed with parsnip puree, apple juice and poppy seeds? Sweet, caramel-flavoured deliciousness. White tequila with beetroot puree, pink prosecco and cumin? A sharp, earthy wonder of beautiful, criss-crossing flavours. A red cabbage daiquiri is equally stunning, and so glowingly pink it practically looks synthetic.

“If it’s a natural product that has so much colour, it’s a symbol of health, vitality and vitamins,” says Esther Medina, the Brazilian mixological maestro behind these concoctions. So not only do they look and taste splendid, and splendidly different, they’re a good way to extend that New Year detox even while you topple off the wagon.

Medina spends her time making infusions and purees from the ingredients she finds in the market to use in her cocktails. Vodka is infused with linseeds and pumpkin seeds, while herbs and other veg, including spinach, sage, sweet potatos and pea shoots, get incorporated. The only thing she won’t use is cucumber.

“I just don’t like it,” she says. “And I haven’t found a way to use mushrooms yet, but I’ll get there.”