Bitters & Shrub Syrup Cocktails Reviewed, By Warren Bobrow, The Cocktail Whisperer

Whenever Warren Bobrow says he’s publishing a new cocktail book, I get excited, very, very excited. Warren speaks my health & kitchen language- apothecary, homeopathic, restorative, small-batch… Words I live by and the ingredients I create with.

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His latest, Bitters & Shrub Syrup Cocktails was created in the spirit of medicinally-themed drinks, and to my personal delight, features mocktails throughout- I make use of mocktails both when entertaining and prescriptively in private practice with patients. The “Theodore Allen” mocktail, Bobrow’s nod to the notorious NYC saloon owner of the 1800’s {not to be mistaken with Theodore Allen, the activist} still conjures a boozy palette sensation thanks to the combination of the sweet and acrid roots fennel, parsnip and carrot, but makes for a socially acceptable, before 11 am drink because, well, it is in fact, sans alcohol!

True to his common theme of improving on the past, Warren’s new collection reaffirms that…

“the essential components in drinks haven’t changed too much over the centuries. Bitters are still made by steeping flower essences, roots, and spices in liquor. Acerbic, botanical-rich digestifs like Underberg still improve digestion after a sumptuous meal. And shrubs are still simple, flavorful combinations of fruit, sugar and vinegar- just like they were centuries ago.”

If at the bar you request spicy, herby, bitter, citrusy or even sweet, Bobrow’s newest collection is on board with your flavor faves. If you’re new to shrubs and bitters, yes, they can literally taste bitter, but really offer far greater sensory depth- think sweet, aromatic or astringent, crisp and spicy, sometimes woody, smoky and earthy- they will never bore, they are not forgettable flavors, they make you want more, many, many more drinks!

Shrubs are especially easy to get hooked on, or at least they have always been a favorite of mine considering I love anything with a hint of vinegar. As Warren expertly explains, they’re darn easy to prepare, simply requiring a hint of patience on your part at home.

Warren’s suggestion that his libations are medicinal? They are. It isn’t just that Warren mixed healthy ingredients together then touted their medicinal virtues- he has quite the solid sensibility of what ingredients accentuate one another therapeutically and how they might quell your indigestion, lighten your mood or nourish your blood. Yes, beverages containing alcohol can ameliorate your ills and assist in improving the bioavailability of nutrient-rich ingredients. Even Warren’s gastrique recipes are healthy.

Speaking of gastriques- they can invigorate the blood, completely improve the medicinal effects of cuisine and are quite divine. Completely uncomplicated, gastriques require few ingredients, are easy to master… I tried the Lapsang Souchong Gastrique with Scotch and turmeric soaked white fish and the Sazerac Gastrique to marinate Maytag blue cheese and crushed hazelnuts. The first surprised, it was a total flavor experiment combining Lapsang Souchang with turmeric and the second was satisfying in a fulfilling-a-sweet-craving sort of way!

As a concoctor-experimenter-health-driven food lover-creator, I appreciate that there really are always new recipes and adapted methods I’ve not yet tried and come to adopt. For the bar or kitchen novice, Warren’s books, especially Bitters & Shrub Syrup Cocktails are pouring with stories and anecdotes that help build cocktail-making confidence. There is not an ounce of pretentiousness throughout Warren’s pages, only recipes that give you more reason to invite friends over, throw parties or up your behind-the-bar game.

I’ve been drinking the “Celery Nectarine Fizz” and “Shall We Talk of Business, Madam?” two tangy & spicy libations that call for shrubs. My current favorite is however “Chances In The Fog”, a simple gin-based cocktail that conjures old-world taste and of course, calls for a shrub!

Chances In The Fog

What You’ll Need

  • 2 oz London dry gin
  • 1 oz Heirloom Tomato, Pear and Sage Shrub  {grab Warren’s book for the shrub recipe}
  • 1/2 oz seltzer
  • 3 dashes aromatic bitters

Method

Fill a cocktail glass three-quarters full with ice. Add gin and shrub. Use a long cocktail spoon to stir for 30 strokes. Use a hawthorne strainer to strain the mixture into a coupe. Top with aromatic bitters and seltzer.

Want to score a copy of Warren’s new book? You’re in luck, we’re giving one away! Enter to win by following us and Warren on Instagram and leave a hashtag on my post #Warrenbobrow. We’ll randomly choose a winner in two weeks.

In NorCal this weekend? Go meet Warren, get a book signed and give him a hug from me. You can see him speaking at UC Berkeley on the 21st of June in the Botanical Garden and atOmnivore Books the day before.

Warren is published by the wonderful folks at Fair Winds of the Quarto Publishing Group.