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.
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.
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.
- 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.