Web Extra: Shrubs – With a Twist
In the July issue’s Taste department, Lori Moffatt gets turned on to shrubs, old-fashioned mixture of fruit, sugar, and vinegar that make great cocktails. (You can also use them to jazz up still or sparkling water.) She wrote a blog about her experience and also shares this introduction to the idea:
By Lori Moffatt
“Imagine that it’s 1780, and there is no electricity, no railroads, and you’re a locavore because you have to be,” began Austin craft-cocktail guru Bill Norris at a seminar at the recent Austin FOOD & WINE Festival. “You’ve got to figure out a way to preserve your fruit and vegetable crop. You would have canned most of it, and you might have made some of it into wine (or even distilled some of the wine), but you might also have made something called a shrub—a fruit-infused drinking vinegar that you could use to flavor water, kind of like a precursor to soft drinks.”
Most cocktails, Bill explains, are comprised of a liquor plus sweet and sour elements. “Lime and lemon are delicious, but they can get old,” he says. That’s where vinegars come in. “Hugely popular in southeast Asia, drinking vinegars add a complex element to cocktails.”
To make a peach shrub, combine 1 cup chopped peaches with 1 cup sugar; cover and leave on the countertop. The sugar will immediately begin pulling the water from the fruit, making syrup. After two days, strain the solids from the syrup and add ½ cup to 1 cup champagne vinegar. “You want the vinegar to linger like a ghost,” says Bill.
Turns out you can make shrubs from all kinds of fruits and vegetables, and the method is roughly the same: Chop your fruit or vegetable, add an equal amount of sugar, and let the syrup form for about two days. Strain out the solids, and add roughly the same amount of good vinegar as your fruit or vegetables. Since discovering shrubs, I’ve gone a bit shrub-crazy, and I’ve made peach shrub, ginger shrub, guava shrub, strawberry shrub, mango shrub, and blueberry shrub, using combinations of balsamic vinegar, champagne vinegar, apple-cider vinegar, and specialty vinegars from Con Olio, a shop in Austin whose products are amazing. Next, I’ll try cucumber and tomato shrubs, which I imagine would taste terrific in a gin-and-tonic or bloody mary. Personally, I like to shake the heck out of my drinks in a cocktail shaker loaded with lots of ice, but you can simply mix the ingredients in a glass full of ice, too.
Bill’s Bourbon Blast
Bill’s Bitter Mary
A bit of mint is nice as a garnish and adds a lovely fragrance; drape some across the top of the ice.
This one is inspired by the Vinegaroon served at Contigo, a restaurant in Austin.
From the July 2013 issue.