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.

ASHEVILLE COCKTAIL WEEK!!

Do please join me!

https://mountainx.com/food/high-spirits-a-guide-to-asheville-cocktail-week/

May 1-8  Best Bloody Mary Contest takes place at participating Asheville bars and restaurants

Wednesday, May 4 Cocktail Theatre with Rob Floyd

Thursday, May 5  Spirit Dinner at Rhubarb with Warren Bobrow and John Fleer, Cinco de Mayo tasting and bar crawl with Hornitos tequila at The Imperial Life

Friday, May 6  Book signing with Warren Bobrow at Malaprop’s, Southeastern Distilling Expo at the S&W Building (service industry only; free of charge), Industry seminars at the S&W (service industry only; free of charge), Fourth annual ELIXIR bar competition at the S&W

Saturday, May 7 Hangover Brunch at The Imperial Life with Cathead Vodka, Cocktail tours with Eating Asheville, Kentucky Derby Party at the Smoky Park Supper Club’s Boat House, with Maker’s Mark, Old Fashioned Nightcap with Knob Creek on the rooftop of the Social Lounge

Sunday, May 8 Best Bloody Mary Contest results released online

All events require either tickets or an RSVP. For ticketing, schedule details and more information, visit ashevillewineandfood.com.

Cannabis Tinctures, the Latest Craze in Craft Cocktails!!

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https://bevvy.co/articles/cannabis-tinctures-the-latest-craze-in-craft-cocktails/2605

We’ve come a long way since the days of Reefer Madness. With the gradual easing of marijuana prohibition laws throughout the United States over the last decade or two, we’ve witnessed a steadily-increasing (albeit divisive) acceptance of the world’s second-favorite recreational drug in mainstream culture. Though we’re probably still another several years away from full legalization, that hasn’t stopped enterprising bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts from beginning to experiment with cannabis tinctures in their artisanal drinks.

Cannabis Tinctures Have a History

Strange as that may seem, it’s actually a pretty natural step in the evolution of craft booze—or, perhaps more accurately, a step back into the old days when bitters, shrubs, and aromatic spirits took up a good chunk of the local apothecary shop.

Long before the drug was first outlawed in the US, cannabis tinctures were relatively common treatments for a whole host of ailments, from nausea to muscle spasms and chronic pain. Much like aromatic bitters, which started their lives as health tonics, it was probably only a matter of time before cannabis-infused ingredients made their way into the cocktail world as well.

Of course, no conversation about cannabis cocktails can begin without a requisite nod to the elephant in the room: in most parts of the country, consuming these drinks recreationally is still illegal. Outside of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, the prospect of ordering a cocktail infused with cannabis bitters at your local bar is still a distant one (and even in states with full legalization, there are generally still laws prohibiting public consumption of the stuff).

That said, if the pendulum continues its current swing away from prohibition—all those new tax dollars do have a certain appeal—it’s likely that this conversation will only become more relevant in the coming years.

How Do Cannabis Cocktails Work?

Legal issues aside, cannabis tinctures are actually pretty interesting from a scientific perspective. While there are numerous compounds in cannabis that have therapeutic properties, the most widely-known and famously psychoactive ones are the cannabinoids, chief among them being tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Most of the THC in cannabis, though, spends its time tied up as tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, or THCA. When the plant is heated (commonly by smoking), THCA undergoes a reaction known as decarboxylation, in which it ditches its carboxyl group—the part of its structure that makes it an acid—in the form of carbon dioxide. After heating, you’re left with regular ol’ THC.

When making a cannabis tincture or infusion, though, there’s no innate heating process to cause that decarboxylation (or “decarbing,” as it’s known in some circles), so it needs to be introduced beforehand. Generally, this is done by baking the cannabis in a low-temperature oven. Warren “Cocktail Whisperer” Bobrow suggests giving it a few quick runs through the microwave in a turkey bag instead, as it doesn’t stink up your kitchen quite so powerfully.

After that, the cannabis is macerated in a high-proof spirit, much like the first step in making homemade bitters. From there, it can either be used as a straightforward, infused base spirit, turned into bitters, added to syrups, or used to make any number of other ingredients.

Cannabis Cocktail Recipes

If you’re looking for some recipes to try out yourself (which, once again, we can only recommend to people who are of age and live in states where it’s legal), keep an eye out for Warren Bobrow’s new book Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails, and Tonics, which comes out on June 1st.

In general, though, aficionados tend to recommend staying away from spirit-forward drinks, like a cannabis-infused Old-Fashioned or Martini—the flavor of these infused spirits is fairly pungent, and it will easily overpower the other ingredients in your cocktail.

Highballs work well, like a Moscow Mule (Bobrow makes a Kentucky Mule with cannabis-infused bourbon), as do vegetal or citrusy recipes of any kind (the Pimm’s Cup and Ramos Gin Fizz have both received high marks). They dilute the infusion a bit and bind the flavors together better than subtler cocktails.

But what makes this such an interesting subject is the fact that there are so few documented recipes out there at the moment. It’s an entirely new area of experimentation, and there isn’t yet much of an accepted canon—mixologists have only recently started to entertain the idea of cannabis as an ingredient.

We’ll refrain from suggesting that you run out there and start experimenting yourself, as it’s a pretty limited number of our readers who can actually do that, but we definitely think you’ll want to keep an eye on this trend. Even if you don’t partake, it’s not often that we get to witness a brand-new category of craft cocktail being developed.

The Shrub; Ancient remedy to modern mixer!!

While the term “shrub” might call to mind a short, green plant in someone’s garden, it means something quite different in the mixology world.

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.

Colonial-Sour-Cherry-Shrub
Colonial Sour Cherry Shrub
Photo Courtesy of Glenn Scott

Colonial Sour Cherry Shrub

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. Jar of Sour Cherry Preserves
  • 1 cup Demerara Sugar
  • 1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar

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.

Benjamin-Gunn-Mystery-Cocktail
The Benjamin Gunn Mystery Cocktail

The Benjamin Gunn Mystery Cocktail

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. Colonial Sour Cherry Shrub
  • 2 oz. Dark Rum (a Molasses-Based Rum that’s Been Aged in Ex-Bourbon Oak is Ideal)
  • 1/4 oz. Dark Amber Maple Syrup
  • Splash of Seltzer Water
  • Lemon Twist
  • Dash of Cherry Bitters

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.

 

Ginger-Lime-Shrub
Ginger-Lime Shrub

Ginger-Lime Shrub

Ingredients:

  • 4 Limes, Zested and Quartered
  • 1 cup Demerara Sugar
  • 6 tbsp. Freshly Grated Ginger Root
  • 1–2 cups Apple Cider Vinegar (Depending on the Height of the Ingredients when Placed in a Bowl)

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.

Ginger-Lime Shrub with Rhum Agricole and Salty Lemonade

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. Ginger-Lime Shrub
  • 2 oz. 100-proof Rhum Agricole Blanc
  • 3 oz. Freshly Made Lemonade, Sweetened with Raw Honey or Simple Syrup
  • 1/2 oz. Seltzer Water
  • 1 pinch Fleur De Sel
  • 2–3 drops Lime Bitters

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.

 

Strawberry-Rhubard-Shrub
Squire’s Strawberry-Rhubarb Shrub

Squire’s Strawberry-Rhubarb Shrub

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Roasted Strawberries and Rhubarb, Equal Parts
  • 1 cup Demerara Sugar
  • 1 cup Light Balsamic Vinegar

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.

Squires-Shrub-Cocktail
Squire’s Shrub Cocktail

Squire’s Shrub Cocktail

  • 1 Brown Sugar Cube
  • Several Dashes of Lemon Bitters
  • 1/2 oz. Botanical Gin
  • 2 oz. Squire’s Strawberry-Rhubarb Shrub
  • 1 1/2 oz. Champagne, or Dry Sparkling Wine
  • 1 Long Lemon Twist

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.

Exciting things!

https://www.instagram.com/everydaydrinkers/

Warren Bobrow  is in town for tomorrow’s filming. As part of the event I have teamed up with The Craft Spirits Exchange to offer the Warren Bobrow Treasure island Refresher.  And our US resident fans can sign up to win!  Treasureisland

I’ll be at [words] bookstore in Maplewood NJ!

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Apothecary Cocktails with the author Warren Bobrow  Tuesday, December 1 — 7:30 pm

At the turn of the century, pharmacies in Europe and America prepared homemade tinctures, bitters, and herbal remedies mixed with alcohol for curative benefit for everything from poor digestion to the common cold. Today, trendy urban bars such as Apothke in New York, Apo Bar & Lounge in Philadelphia, and 1022 South in Tacoma, as well as “vintage” and “homegrown” cocktail aficionados, find inspiration in apothecary cocktails of old.

Buy the book!

http://wordsbookstore.com/category/events/

179 Maplewood Ave, Maplewood, NJ 07040

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