Sunday Cocktails: Shrubs

This week I decided to try my hand at making a shrub. What is a shrub? It’s the combination of fruit, sugar and vinegar to make a syrup.

Why would I want to drink a cocktail with vinegar? Let’s talk a bit about vinegar and its effects on a beverage. I’ll try my best to avoid any shrubbery jokes. I’ll try but can’t make any promises.

Vinegar:

  • fermented sugar and water.

  • 5% acetic acid

  • Kills bacteria & microorganisms.

Shrubs are an old form of canning. By adding vinegar you stall the spoilage process. The idea of adding alcohol to create a beverage is centuries old, but forgotten until recent years. Not only does it help to preserve, it also helps to deliver flavor.

Your lips probably purse just thinking about vinegar. Vinegar excites an immediate reaction to our mouths. It has a very noticeable mouthfeel.

Mouthfeel is the sensation in the mouth caused by a food or beverage. It’s how your mouth physically reacts when you taste something. The flavor, the viscosity (or thickness), the texture; all help to contribute to the mouthfeel.

Mouthfeel is something we don’t usually think about and often neglect. It’s important to think about because it aids in how we enjoy what we’re eating. Let’s say you just finished an awesome sandwich. What are you going to wash it down with, water? Is that water going to be as satisfying as the carbonation of a glass of cola or a beer? Why do we crave the thickness of milk after eating something sweet? It all attributes to the stimulation we experience due to the mouthfeel. It just feels good.

Perhaps this is why using shrubs in a beverage is so satisfying yet perplexing. Our brains are not programed to think of vinegar as being refreshing. I trust that you’re not going to be taking swigs of vinegar any time soon.

The vinegar in a shrub attributes two things to a cocktail.

  1. There’s now a tang, a sharpness, that isn’t there with simple syrup. It stimulates the tongue with more intensity thus delivering more flavor.

  2. It modifies the viscosity of the drink, if only slightly. This makes for a smoother cocktail. The small adjustment in weight feels good against the tongue. (The same happens when you make a beverage using egg whites.)

I could continue on with my theories or we could get to making some drinks. Let’s make some cocktails.

 

Blueberry Thyme Shrub

  .5 cup Blueberries

   2 tsp Thyme

.33 cup Red Wine Vinegar

.33 cup Simple Syrup

Store macerated blueberries, thyme, vinegar and syrup in a air tight container up to one week. Shake daily. Strain before serving.

This recipe is for a small shrub *giggle*. I had some blueberries in the fridge that I'd forgotten about. I literally threw everything together in 2 minutes. 

The flavor will change the longer you let your shrub sit. I stored mine for one week before use.

After a week I strained off the berries and thyme using a french press. So much easier than using cheese cloth and a wire strainer.

I instantly decided that I wanted to make an egg white cocktail. I love the foam and the almost creamy texture. And topping it with club soda tones down the shrubs, making for a refreshing beverage.

Blueberry Thyme Fizz

1.5 oz Rum

 1 oz Blueberry Thyme Shrub

.5 oz Cointreau

  .5 oz Lemon Juice

        1 Eggwhite

           Few dashes Lavender bitters

Dry shake with eggwhites. Shake with ice. Strain. Top with club soda.

So the next time you're out and you see a shrub cocktail on the menu, I hope you'll give it a try. It might surprise you how much you'll like it. 

Imbibe Happily,

Nikki