Happy Repeal Day!! I have to be honest and say that the first time I saw a shrub listed as an ingredient in a cocktail, I really didn’t have a clue as to what was going on. I tried to pretend as if I knew… Oh sure shrubs, they’re awesome in cocktails, but really I was thinking whaaat??? Just a little bit of research told me everything I needed to know. The origin of shrubs goes back to colonial times when refrigeration was not available, and vinegar was used as a means of preserving fruit. Early Americans discovered that if they strained out the fruit and added a little cane syrup and some spices to what was left behind, they’d produce a drinking vinegar, also know as a shrub. They subsequently learned that they could then add a little soda water for a soft drink, or some alcohol to make a cocktail. Once I understood what shrubs were I was truly curious to try a drink made with one, but then I’m a person who loves the taste of vinegar. I know what you’re all thinking. Last Friday I told you about a bitter spirit that tasted like medicinal mud, and now I’m suggesting that you drink some vinegar! I was a bit skeptical too at first, but this is definitely worth exploring. When I finally got to have one, I was pleasantly surprised by how different and refreshing it was, but if you’re a person who loves sweet cocktails then those made with shrubs may be an acquired taste for you. After all, vinegar is distinctly sour, and that sourness does not disappear even after the addition of simple syrup and bitters, but I still encourage you to give them a try. Have I ever really steered you wrong?? Shrubs are also something that can be made at home, so if you’re a person who is into home canning or preserving this might be just the thing for you!
I’m preparing to pour cocktails this Friday night at Gorshin Trading Post in Haddonfield, so I’ve been doing some tasting to figure out which drinks I want to serve. I knew I wanted one of them to be a kind of a holiday shrub that used some of the products that are available to purchase right in the store. I decided on the McClary Bros. Michigan Saskatoon shrub and the Jack Rudy aromatic bitters. I went with my own homemade simple syrup made with black tea and rosemary to give the drink a deeper base, and to bring in an herbal quality that makes me think of Christmas. Finally, I needed a main spirit and I wanted it to be local so I chose Stateside Vodka, a super-pure product distilled right in nearby Kensington. This is an easy drink to mix up in a batch for a holiday party because it requires just a little bit of stirring over ice. Add a cranberry on a skewer and a rosemary sprig and you’re good to go!
Old Time Holiday Shrub (recipe adapted from McClary Bros.)
3 oz. Stateside Vodka
2 oz. McClary Bros. drinking vinegar (Michigan Saskatoon or Michigan Cranberry)
1/2 oz Black tea and Rosemary simple syrup*
2 dashes Jack Rudy aromatic bitters
3 oz Q club soda
1 cranberry and a rosemary sprig for garnishing
Place all the ingredients except for the cranberry and rosemary into a mixing glass and fill 2/3 full with ice. Stir with a long-handled bar spoon until very cold. Strain using a julep strainer, and pour over ice into a Collins glass. Skewer the cranberry with a toothpick and garnish along with the rosemary sprig. Enjoy!
*To make the simple syrup, add equal parts black oolong tea and sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add 2 rosemary sprigs to a mason jar, pour in the syrup, and seal. Let steep for a few hours until you can distinctly taste the rosemary. Discard the sprigs and the syrup will keep for a few weeks in the fridge.