Summer Shrubs

Summer Shrubs

Shrubs

Shrubs

A shrub is an old-fashioned elixir intended to preserve seasonal fruit using a combination of sugar and vinegar. Once outmoded, shrubs have seen a resurgence in popularity over the last couple of years. D and I had sampled several, both in their non-alcoholic state and mixed in to cocktails, but we had never made any until this past weekend. Perhaps we never would have tried our hand at these lovely summer sippers had it not been for Heidi.

Heidi is a purveyor of shrubs, selling her Mixers and Elixirs brand at our local farmers market. After meeting her a couple of weeks ago we added her on twitter where she promptly challenged us to try making shrubs of our own. The very next day D returned from his morning coffee run with a book on shrubs from our neighborhood culinary bookstore, Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks. D cannot walk within two blocks of this store without absolutely requiring a very important tome. And thus, with shrubs on the agenda, began our most recent Sunday Funday.

We started at the farmers market where we found lovely fresh currants and a flat of mixed berries. From this we decided on three shrubs from the book: red currant with white wine vinegar; raspberry and thyme with apple cider vinegar; and blackberries and lime (with the unscripted addition of mint because I have great difficulty sticking to a recipe), also with apple cider vinegar.

Initially I was concerned about using fresh herbs, as they may contain bacteria and mold that can rapidly multiply. However a quick Internet search affirmed that fresh herbs can be used to infuse vinegar but should not be used to infuse oil.

Shrubs

Shrubs peparations

I washed each fruit and herb separately, allowing them to bathe in a solution of 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to 6 cups of water for 10 minutes and then rinsing them in cold water.

This, incidentally, is a fabulous way to clean berries to help increase shelf life. Then we went to work, muddling berries with sugar to extract as much juice as possible.

You may never have heard of a shrub before and may be wondering why that is. Shrubs were an early method of preserving fruit beyond the natural growing season, much the same way as beer preserved grain and wine preserved grapes, though in this instance without producing alcohol. (There are boozy shrubs but we’ll save those for another day.) With a shelf life of more than a year the preserved fruit flavor can then be enjoyed at any time. Shrubs are usually diluted, either with sparkling or flat water or with alcohol, before serving. But as food preservation techniques advanced shrubs were all but forgotten.

I’m not sure why shrubs are seeing a revival now, though I suspect it is a natural offshoot of our contemporary interest in antique cocktails. Whatever the reason, they add a new and fun dimension to any bar.

To be clear shrubs do have a pronounced vinegar taste. The vinegar should mellow as the solution ages but be sure to work only with vinegar that you actually like. Also if you decide to work with ‘live’ vinegar, such as Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar with “The Mother,” be prepared for your shrub to be cloudy. While I use live ACV for many purposes I selected pasteurized vinegar for project shrub.

Red Currant Shrub

  • 1 ¾ cups red currants, cleaned and stemmed
  • ½ cup turbinado sugar
  • ½ cup white wine vinegar

Using a muddler or similar gently crush the currants in a medium bowl.

Add the sugar and continue to muddle until the mixture is juicy and the sugar is mostly incorporated. Cover the bowl and refrigerate 2 hours.

Separate the liquid from the solids using a fine strainer. Discard the solids. Add the vinegar to the currant and sugar syrup, stirring well to incorporate any sugar crystals. Transfer to a glass jar and allow to rest in the fridge at least one week before using.

For a refreshing cocktail add ½ – 1 ounce of shrub and 1-3 ounces of dry vermouth to a highball glass. Top with soda water. Garnish with a twist.

Red Currant Shrub

Red Currant Shrub

Raspberry Thyme Shrub

  • 2 cups raspberries, washed and picked over
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar

Muddle the raspberries and sugar in a medium bowl until the juices are released and most of the sugar has been incorporated. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 2 days.

Place the thyme in a small mason jar and cover with the apple cider vinegar. Store in a cool dark place for 2 days.

Shrubs Thyme

Shrubs Thyme

Separate the liquid from the solids using a fine strainer. Discard the solids. Strain the thyme from the vinegar, discarding the thyme. Add the vinegar to the raspberry syrup, stirring well to incorporate any sugar. Transfer to a glass jar and allow to rest in the fridge at least one week before using.

 

For a refreshing cocktail shake 1/2  ounce raspberry thyme shrub with ½ ounce of elderflower liquor and 1 ounce of vodka or gin. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice and top with soda or sparkling wine.

Raspberry Thyme Shrub

Raspberry Thyme Shrub

Blackberry Lime and Mint Shrub

  • 1 ½ cups blackberries, washed and picked over
  • Zest of 4 limes, pith carefully removed
  • 1 large handful fresh mint, washed
  • 1 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar

Muddle the blackberries, lime zest, mint and sugar in a medium bowl until the juices are released and most of the sugar has been incorporated. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.

Shrubs lime-blackberries

Shrubs lime-blackberries

Separate the liquid from the solids using a fine strainer. Discard the solids. Add the vinegar to the blackberry syrup, stirring well to incorporate any sugar. Transfer to a glass jar and allow to rest in the fridge at least one week before using.

 

 

 

 

 

For a refreshing cocktail shake ½-1 ounce of blackberry lime shrub with 2 ounces of tequila or rum and ½ ounce of lime juice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or serve on the rocks topped with soda.

Blackberry Lime and Mint Shrub

Blackberry Lime and Mint Shrub

Book reference:

Shrubs: An Old-Fashioned Drink for Modern Times by Michael Dietsch

Shrubs

Shrubs

 

 

Summer Sippers

Summer Sippers

Summer Sunset

Summer Sunset

Summer is in full swing, at least in my hemisphere, and this means it’s the perfect time to sit back and relax with a refreshing frosty beverage. For most of the year I prefer a short drink, to the point that when a bartender asks me what I like I always specify no rocks and no soda before I even consider the spirits that suit my mood. But for a couple months each summer these rules fly out the window. The dog days of summer beg for a long, cool, revitalizing bevvy. My normally spirit-forward palette suddenly craves seasonal fruit and citrus. Here are a few thirst-quenching cocktails guaranteed to beat the heat!

Sour Cherry Gin Sling

(Adapted from http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/sour-cherry-gin-slings)

Fresh sour cherries are only available for a couple of weeks a year so get them while the getting is good! Be sure to buy an extra pound or two to make your own maraschino cherries!!)

For the sour cherry syrup:

Cherry Syrup

Cherry Syrup

  • 1 pound sour cherries, stems removed
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • Zest of ½ lemon
  • Zest of ½ orange

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat (there is no need to pit the cherries). Reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth, discarding the solids. Allow the syrup to cool before use. The syrup will keep about 1 week in the refrigerator.

For the Slings:

Cherry Sling ingredients

Cherry Sling ingredients

  • 2 ounces Gin (we used Broker’s)
  • .66 ounce Cointreau
  • .66 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 2.5 ounces sour cherry syrup
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Soda water

Pour the gin, Cointreau, lime, and cherry syrup into a large Collins glass (12-14 ounces). Fill with ice, leaving only a couple of ounces of headroom. Top with soda (not too much or you will dilute the wonderful flavors!) and a couple of dashes of bitters. Garnish with a lime wheel and a maraschino cherry. Bask in the sunshine!

 

 

Violet Fizz

(From A.J. Rathbun’s Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz)

Our liquor cabinet is full of obscure ingredients purchased with a specific cocktail or two in mind. Recently I’ve made it my mission to find additional uses for these liqueurs. The Violet Fizz marries one of my favorite floral spirits with citrus to produce summer in a glass.

Violet Fizz:

Violet Fizz

Violet Fizz

  • 2 ounces gin (we used Broker’s)
  • .5 ounce Crème de Violette
  • .25 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • .25 ounce simple syrup
  • Club soda

Build the drink in a highball glass (8-9 ounces) by adding the gin, violette, lemon juice and simple syrup. Fill with ice until ¾ full. Top with club soda. (Tip: always use a fresh can or single-serving bottle of soda when creating fizzy cocktails. Family-sized bottles and open cans loose their carbonation quickly.) Garnish with a lemon wheel, maraschino cherry, or a violet if you have one!

Strega Fizz

(Source: http://www.cocktaildb.com/recipe_detail?id=2228)

Strega is an Italian herbal liqueur, reminiscent of a simplified yellow Chartreuse, but with more citrus notes. It is relatively inexpensive and drinks well on its own or mixed into cocktails. This simple recipe, which seems to capture the essence and color of sunshine, is delightfully light and quenching.

Strega Fizz:

  • 1 ounce gin (again we used Broker’s)
  • 1 ounce Strega
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • Club soda
Strega Fizz

Strega Fizz

Add the gin, Strega, and lemon juice to a highball glass (8-9 ounces). Fill with ice until ¾ full. Top with soda. Garnish with a lemon wheel.