Recipes

Vinegar-laced ‘shrub’ a timeworn cocktail ingredient

American Colonists used shrubs to flavor cocktails such as this take on the Tom Collins, which uses gin, lemon juice, soda and blackberry shrub.
American Colonists used shrubs to flavor cocktails such as this take on the Tom Collins, which uses gin, lemon juice, soda and blackberry shrub.

The benefits of vinegar are purported to be many — helps weight loss, whitens teeth, lowers blood sugar levels, etc. Though those claims are largely unsubstantiated, I use vinegars as a cocktails flavoring. To me, that’s a benefit.

The use of vinegar as a drink date back centuries. American colonists combined vinegar, fresh berries and sugar as a way to get more yield out of their summer crops. They called it a “shrub.”

Refrigerated, a shrub can last weeks. Another bonus is it needn’t be mixed with booze, so the kiddos can have a cherry soda that doesn’t require a can, bottle or high fructose corn syrup.

The simplest cocktail preparation is mixing a shrub with fresh lemon or lime juice, your spirit of choice and topping it off with soda water. I add blackberry shrub to a standard mojito to great effect. A peach shrub in a mint julep would be equally tasty.

The type of flavor you make your shrub with is endless, and doesn’t always need to be on the sweet side. Berries are a popular choice, but more adventurous palates might choose tomato, celery or cucumber. Likewise, the type of vinegar you use can help create more complex flavors. Some recipes even add peppercorns or fresh herbs.

For those who love to experiment in the kitchen, making shrubs will likely lead to making more. The method that I instill at Capitol Bar is one that uses heat, as opposed to the more traditional cold method, which can takes up to 10 days of maceration. This is just a quick time saver.

Kevin Hopper uses his own shrubs and syrups in his cocktails at Capitol Bar at 6100 State St.

Blackberry Shrub

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1 cup fresh blackberries

1 cup apple cider vinegar

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, water and blackberries and bring to a boil, stirring often until the sugar has completely dissolved. Turn off heat and cover for 20 minutes. Strain blackberries out and return to pot. Add vinegar and bring to a simmer. Turn off and let cool to room temperature. Pour cooled shrub into a mason jar and place in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks.

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