If you were to call me a cheap date, you would not be the first. I’m generally tipsy after one drink and finished by the end of drink number three. It’s a bit of a hazard when it comes to cocktails since I’m liable to be three sheets to the wind before I even realize it since what I’m drinking tastes less like alcohol and more like “I’ll have another.”
Getting the kind of complexity that most good cocktails have generally requires bitters, but more and more often I‘ve come across shrubs – or drinking vinegar – as a way to add depth to a cocktail. And I like the change. Bitters add some flavor but they also add, well, bitterness; shrub adds acidity and tang to an otherwise sweet drink.
Drinking vinegar may be a bit of a misnomer. This isn’t something that’s for drinking straight up. Think of it like an Italian soda syrup but tangier, more flavorful than the stuff that comes in bottles. Think of it as a pick-me-up for your favorite soda or an addition to a gin and tonic. Then think about inviting me over for a refreshing drink to start the week off right.
These first made an appearance over the holidays both in cocktails and in some non-alcoholic drinks for those who couldn’t – or wouldn’t – have a drink at 10 am. At the time the cranberry flavor was festive. But the sweet and sour shrub made with sweet-sour cranberries is one of my favorites. I’ve found frozen cranberries year round but any other berry or fruit cut into pieces would work just as well.
Edit: To spice up a drink just add 1-2 tablespoons of shrub to a soda or a cocktail – it helps to stick with something that has a similar flavor profile to the shrub. I’d add this one to a Pimm’s cup or stir it into some bourbon and seltzer.
1 cup cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
Pinch of salt
3 tbs apple cider vinegar
In a small saucepan, combine the berries, sugar, and water. Bring it to a boil over medium high heat and then let it simmer for 15 minutes or until all the cranberries have burst. Add a pinch of salt, stir, and then remove the syrup from the heat. Strain the solids out of it and then let it cool.
Once the strained syrup is cooled, add the vinegar and shake it up. Add a few spoonful to a drink or mix it lemon juice and oil to make a sweet-sour salad dressing. It should keep for two weeks in the fridge.