Thank you, Common Man Cocktails!
I’m a huge fan of Manhattan-style cocktails; they make great aperitifs. This one is named after Milton “Mezz” Mezzrow, a jazz musician who lived in Harlem in the 1920s. And, as Mezz himself would have known, the term for a well-rolled cannabis cigarette was a “mezzrole”—so I just had to commemorate both man and medicine in this elegant cocktail. It combines cannabis-infused sweet vermouth, handmade cocktail cherries, and quality bourbon into a small, but well-formed, libation that’s deeply healing.
When you’re infusing your vermouth, consider choosing a Sativa-Indica hybrid strain called Cherry Pie. It’s redolent of sweet and sour cherries, and it complements the toasty, oaky flavors inherent in the liquors. As for making crushed ice, it’s best to place the ice in a Lewis bag—a heavy canvas bag that’s made for the job—before whacking it with a wooden mallet or rolling pin.
This recipe calls for Greenish Cocktail Cherries.
Whether it’s fruit that’s out of season, that bottle of super rare aperitif that you’re dying to mix up, or you’ve simply run out of one of your bar staples in the middle of a rush, it’s important to have effective substitutions ready to take center stage.
Below you’ll find some handy suggestions on substitutions that could easily bail you out the next time you’re in a pinch.
1. Substitute fresh juices
Warren Bobrow, author of “Apothecary Cocktails, Bitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails, Whiskey Cocktails,” and “Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails, and Tonics” relies on Fruitations Craft Soda and Cocktail Mixers when you need a quick — but still flavorful — stand in for fresh fruit juices.
Fruitations is currently available in three varieties — cranberry, grapefruit, and tangerine.
“It’s brilliant stuff,” Bobrow said.
2. Make your own liqueurs
Sometimes it’s harder than it should be to get your hands on a specific liqueur. Sometimes, it’s just cheaper to make them yourself.
Mike McSorley, Head Distiller and Brand Ambassador at Island Distillers, has a handful of quick fixes when behind the bar.
St. Germain substitute
3. When you need to MacGyver it
Sometimes it’s simply a matter of being put in a tough spot in the middle of a rushed service.
Izzy Ramos Foster, owner of Mixotica Cocktail Design, has had to make a handful of fast decisions in her time.
“For a Sidecar, using Tuaca and/or Licor 43 as a substitute when your orange liqueur unexpectedly runs out has worked every time,” Foster said. “Sometimes it works in a Margarita, depending the tequila. I’ve never had a complaint!”
Other off-the-cuff substitutions have been a bit more unique.
“I’ve also had to resort to using crushed Altoid breath mint powder (diluted in a bit water and strained) a couple of times when a sudden Mojito craze hit, fresh mint ran very low, but the cocktails needed to go out stat,” she said. “It’s not my proudest ‘professional bartending’ moments but it worked and the party went on!
4. All in the family
When it comes to replacing ingredients, remember that like replaces like.
For example, if you’re short on Cynar, you could easily swap out with a similar potable bitters like Campari (although it’s much fruitier than Cynar), Fernet Branca or Punt è Mes — a dark, bitter Italian vermouth produced by Carpano.
Consider the balance of your drink and its key features, and you can even create some unique cocktails by switching out key ingredients. For example, if you’re short on vodka when dying for a Moscow Mule but happen to have a silver rum in the house, replacing the vodka with rum leads to the heavier, richer Jamaican Mule.
5. Knowledge is your best substitute
Finally, have a working knowledge of how flavors relate to each other — and an even better understanding of what you actually have access to behind your own individual bar.
“Knowledge is key here,” said Matthew Biancaniello, owner of Eat Your Drink, LLC.
Specifically, while behind the bar one night Biancaniello noticed he had suddenly run out of fresh lime juice. What he did have, however, was fresh passion fruit juice.
“Instead of 2 ounces of lime juice, I did 3/4 ounce of passion fruit juice,” he said. “The passion fruit became the citrus in place of the lime juice. By reducing the amount I was able to keep the citrus there without making it painfully obvious that I wasn’t using the usual ingredient.”
The key to quick substitutions behind the bar is a deep knowledge and appreciation of similar flavors, a willingness to play around with different ingredients, and the ability to think on your feet.
Substitution quick tips:
Substitute liquors and liqueurs from the same family. In a pinch, rye can stand in for bourbon.
Take the time to play around with different flavors before you really need to punt. Having a knowledge of parallel flavors will keep your flavors relatively consistent.
Don’t be afraid to play around with different flavor combinations to create something new (so long as your patron knows that you’re being creative).
A shrub is essentially an acidulated (read vinegar-based) beverage as old as history itself. In the days before refrigeration, it was pretty evident that without some means for food preservation, keeping items fresh was difficult at best. Food borne illnesses could be prevented or at least minimized by the use of an acid. In this case, the combination of vinegar and sugar when added to either fruit or vegetables contributed to a rudimentary food preservation system that has existed up to modern times. During the colonial era in particular, when daily labor was exhausting and folks needed something to cool off and reinvigorate themselves, shrubs were often drunk on their own. However, when a more festive mood took hold, shrubs were added to spirituous beverages, offering both a tart kick and a dose of healthy vinegar. Was the shrub the original health drink? Certainly it was used for good health, right up to the time when soda pop was invented, spelling the demise of the shrub. In recent years, however, a resurgence of old methods has taken the cocktail world by storm. In search of new and intriguing flavor profiles, bartenders have started making shrubs in house and, in doing so, creating a wealth of unique drinks. Shrubs are simply made with only three ingredients, a fruit (or a vegetable), sugar, and some type of vinegar. It does have to be aged after the mashing of fruit, sugar and vinegar, but that timing is really up to you. It can age quickly or over several weeks.
Below is a selection of shrub recipes and the drinks in which I’ve used them. You could easily customize your own beverage by adding a shrub to your favorite gin, vodka, and rum-based libations.
Preparation: Place the sour cherry preserves in a nonreactive bowl, and cover with the sugar. Let them steep together for at least overnight (or for a few days) at room temperature. Then strain the cherry mixture through a non-reactive sieve, crushing the tender fruits with a wooden spoon to extract as much flavor and sweet juice as possible. Combine with the vinegar; let the mixture sit for a few hours, and then strain into sterilized bottles.
Preparation: Place an ice cube in a rocks glass, and add 2 tbsp. of the sour cherry shrub. Add the dark rum and the maple syrup, and then top with a splash of fizzy seltzer water. Garnish with a lemon twist, and dot with cherry bitters.
Preparation: In a non-reactive bowl, combine the lime peels, lime quarters, sugar, and ginger. Stir to combine and coat all the fruit with sugar. Cover and leave at room temperature at least overnight or for 1 to 2 days. (Slow, cool fermentation gives a shrub its trademark bite.) Now prepare your shrub for aging. Set a strainer over another non-reactive bowl and pour the lime and ginger into the strainer. Use a stout wooden spoon to extract as much juice as possible from the limes and the softened ginger. Let the mixture sit for a few more hours.
Stir again, and discard the fruit chunks. Stir in the vinegar, and then use a funnel to transfer the shrub syrup to a sterilized bottle. Seal and then shake well to combine. Store the bottles in the refrigerator or at cellar temperature for 3 to 4weeks before using. Shake each bottle once or twice daily to help the sugar dissolve. When it’s mostly dissolved, your shrub is ready to use. Makes 1 1/2 cups. Keep refrigerated, and use within about 6 months.
Preparation: Add the Ginger-Lime Shrub to an old fashioned glass. Then add an ice spear. Top with the Rhum Agricole Blanc, the lemonade, and a splash of seltzer water. Sprinkle a pinch of fleur de sel into the drink, and finish with a couple drops of lime bitters.
Preparation: Add the roasted strawberries and rhubarb to a non-reactive bowl. Cover with the sugar, stir to combine, and cover it with plastic wrap. Leave at cool room temperature for 24 hours. Stir frequently during this time to combine as the berries and rhubarb give off their liquid.
Place a non-reactive strainer above a second non-reactive bowl, pour the fruit-sugar mixture into the strainer, and use a wooden spoon to mash the mixture in order to release as much liquid as possible. (Reserve the mashed fruit to use in cooking or baking, if you like.) Add the balsamic vinegar to the liquid, stir, and let the mixture sit for a few hours. Funnel into sterilized bottles or jars, and age for 3–4 weeks in the refrigerator. This shrub will last nearly indefinitely, but if it begins to quiver, dance, or speak in foreign languages, throw it out.
Preparation: Add the sugar cube to a Champagne flute (see below), and moisten with the lemon bitters. Then add the gin and the Squire’s Strawberry-Rhubarb Shrub, and top with Champagne. Garnish with a long lemon twist.
Note: To prepare this flute, combine very finely chopped lemon zest and sugar, wet the rim of the glass with lemon, and dip the glass into yellow-colored sugar.
It’s true, the Squire’s Shrub does require a couple of extra steps, but I promise it’s worth your while: Your patience will be rewarded with a lush, crimson colored syrup that’s straight out of the eighteenth century, when America was in its infancy and early pharmacists would have relied on their gardens to supply the basis for their healing tonics. (Rhubarb has been used as a digestive aid for thousands of years.) There’s nothing difficult to it, though, beyond a little extra mixing, and roasting your fruit before making the shrub. The vinegar’s high acidity cuts through the sumptuous, charred, caramelized flavor of the roasted strawberries and rhubarb, making it a seductive addition to gin, vodka, and rum-based libations.
2 cups (340 g)
Roasted Strawberries and Rhubarb
1 cup (200 g) Demerara sugar
1 cup (235 ml) light balsamic vinegar
Time: 3–4 weeks. Add the roasted strawberries and rhubarb to a nonreactive bowl. Cover with the sugar, stir to combine, and cover it with plastic wrap. Leave at cool room temperature for 24 hours. Stir frequently during this time to combine as the berries and rhubarb give off their liquid. Place a nonreactive strainer above a second nonreactive bowl, pour the fruit-sugar mixture into the strainer, and use a wooden spoon to mash the mixture in order to release as much liquid as possible.
(Reserve the mashed fruit to use in cooking or baking, if you like.) Add the balsamic vinegar to the liquid, stir, and let the mixture sit for a few hours. Funnel into sterilized bottles or jars, and age for 3–4 weeks in the refrigerator. This shrub will last nearly indefinitely, but if it begins to quiver, dance, or speak in foreign languages, throw it out.
Excerpted from Bitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails Restorative Vintage Cocktails, Mocktails, and Elixirs by Warren Bobrow (Fair Winds Press, 2015).
A wonderful mixology seminar,thanks to Niche Import Company!
A fabulous book signing for my book, Bitters & Shrub Syrup Cocktails!
Adventures with Klaus!