Some Strange And Delicious Concoctions

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Warren Bobrow

Real shrubs for your cocktail glass, not the kind that take up room in your front yard, are a strange and delicious concoctions of vinegar and sugar-preserved fruit syrup.  During the late summer months, they are especially delicious because they are inexpensive to make and quite thirst slaking.  And guess what? This respectable beverage that has its roots in the Colonial Era and are making a comeback in restaurants, craft cocktail bars, and even at home.

The history of Shrubs dates back hundreds of years. They were most frequently used into the mid-1800s, regularly among the working class because utter lack of refrigeration (and electricity) for the preservation of fresh ingredients.  No refrigeration meant all bad things to the gut.

Home-made, vinegar based fruit syrup was an inexpensive, sweet refreshment that could be added to a multitude of liquids. People found that drinking certain kinds of acidulated liquids like shrubs helped ease their aching bellies from the consumption of ‘compromised foods and drink’. Drinking these easy to make and easier to enjoy- sweet and tangy beverages were found to give the imbiber quick energy, too.  Were they the first energy drinks? Possibly…

The acidic vinegar based beverages helped to purify their poisonous drinking water in the ages before sanitization.

When fizzy, cheaply produced soda pop hit the scene in the late 1800’s, shrubs all but disappeared from popular drinking vernacular and might have been lost forever if it wasn’t for the resurgence of the popularity of barmen such as Jerry Thomas.

Fast forward to today, mixologists have rediscovered the magic of utilizing fresh fruit and vegetable shrubs in their craft cocktails. And now aficionados are starting to toy with them at home because of their ease in production.

Classical elements and techniques are hot behind the cocktail stick because they are authentic!Bobrow1_August2016

Shrubs can be simply made with only three easy-to-purchase ingredients: raw sugar, some kind of vinegar and fruit, plus a bit of water. They have a salty, sea-like undertone but are also sweet and tart. The fruit gives a deeply welcome hit of sweet perfume, the cane sugar (essential) sweetens naturally, and the unmistakable tang of your favorite vinegar makes your lips pucker, and few things are more salutary for the gut than naturally fermented beverages. Shrubs really were the original energy and health drink. And now it looks like this tangy combination of flavors have received their second wind!

Here are two of my favorite shrubs, along with three cocktail recipes.

Note: These shrubs will remain fresh for 1 to 2 months in the refrigerator, unless until they start to dance the jig and sing in Gaelic, then make a new batch immediately!

Shrub Recipes

Summer Raspberry Shrub

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

This very basic shrub makes all kinds of refreshing combinations. Although the raspberry shrub starts out vividly red, in the end result, after a couple of weeks fermenting; the shrub will have a pale coral hue.  It’s delicious mixed with gin, vodka, rum, whiskey, Scotch, Sherry, white wine- and of course just plain seltzer water!

  • Ingredients:
  • 1 cup very ripe organic raspberries (they can be bruised and soft, but please, no mold)
  • 1 cup raw cane sugar
  • 1 cup raw cider vinegar (I use Bragg’s with the Mother Yeast intact)

Method

  1. In a nonreactive bowl, add raspberries and pour sugar over the top.
  2. Cover and let sit refrigerated for a few days, stirring and muddling often with a wooden spoon to combine. This mixture should expel lots of liquid, this is good!
  3. After a few days of gentle fermentation, add vinegar. Let the vinegar combine with the sugar and raspberries for another week refrigerated.
  4. Arrange a fine-mesh strainer over a nonreactive bowl (one with a spout is handy). Pour the shrub mixture into the strainer and mash with a wooden spoon to extract as much liquid as possible.
  5. Funnel the shrub into sterilized jars. Cover and refrigerate for at least a week more, shaking well before using.
  6. The assertive vinegar flavor will fade over time, leaving you a simple syrup that is tangy, sweet and very noteworthy!
  7. Tip: A simple way to enjoy this raspberry shrub is with a glass of seltzer water and the addition of a few slivers of lemon zest.

AFTER A PAUSE:

Late Summer Punch  (serves 2)

Ingredients

  • Ice cubes
  • 4 ounces Mezan XO Jamaican Rum
  • 3 ounces Raspberry Shrub
  • ½ ounce Freshly Squeezed Lime juice
  • 1 ounce Freshly Squeezed Lemon juice
  • 1 ounce Freshly Squeezed Orange juice
  • 4 dashes Angostura Bitters

Method

  1. Fill a cocktail shaker three-quarters full with ice. Pour the Mezan XO Rum, your handmade Shrub and juices over the ice. Cover, cap and shake hard for 15 seconds or until frosty.
  2. Add a large ice cube to each of 2 coupe glasses. Strain cocktail into each of the glasses, dash the Angostura over the top of each glass (2 dashes each) and serve while icy.

Roasted Peach Shrub

Makes about 1 1/2 Cups

Ingredients

  • 2-3 pounds peaches, preferably extra ripe, roughly chopped
  • 2¼ cups raw cane sugar, divided
  • 2 cups Champagne vinegar

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Arrange peaches on a large rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with ¼ cup of the sugar and roast for 45 minutes or until deeply caramelized. Let cool and transfer to a nonreactive bowl.
  3. Cover roasted peaches with remaining 2 cups sugar. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for several days, stirring often to mash and muddle the peaches and release peach-flavored sugar syrup.
  4. After a few days, add the vinegar. It may bubble a bit, which is ideal. Cover and let sit refrigerated for a further week, stirring twice daily to release the flavors.
  5. Arrange a fine mesh strainer over a nonreactive bowl (one with a spout is handy). Pour the shrub mixture into the strainer and mash with a wooden spoon to extract as much liquid as possible.
  6. Funnel into sterilized jars. Cover and refrigerate for at least another week before using. This shrub takes at least three weeks to actualize.  Please, plan ahead!

Note: If your shrubs ever become fuzzy, foamy, spin like whirling dervishes or try to take the car keys, send them down the drain immediately! Mold is not your friend! Remember the Salem Witch trials and the fun they had with home-made mold!

Only Fair Play Allowed

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • Ice cubes
  • 2½ oz. Roasted Peach Shrub
  • 2½ oz. Barrell Whiskey Batch #002
  • 3 oz. plain seltzer water, divided between the two Old Fashioned glasses with large cubes of hand cut ice
  • 4 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • Fresh mint, for garnish
  • Spray of Absinthe

Method

  1. Fill 2 old fashioned glasses with plain ice and water, and then set aside to chill.
  2. Fill a Cocktail Mixing Glass ¾ with ice
  3. Add the Roasted Peach Shrub and the Barrell Whiskey
  4. Stir for at least 30 turns
  5. Pour ice water out of the cocktail glasses and spray the inside of each glass with Absinthe.
  6. Add a couple fresh ice cubes to each glass.
  7. Double strain the cocktail over the ice and top with a splash of seltzer water.
  8. Dot each cocktail with the Angostura Bitters and garnish with impeccably clean and dry sprigs of fresh mint.

Across Rivington Street (mocktail)

Ingredients

  • Couple pinches of fresh thyme (No Wood please, it’s bitter. Use just the leaf) plus a sprig of thyme just for the garnish
  • Large Handmade ice cubes
  • 2 oz. Roasted Peach Shrub
  • 2 lemon zests
  • 1 oz. plain seltzer water
  • Aromatic bitters

Method

  1. Add thyme leafs and a handful of ice to a mixing glass.
  2. Add shrub and your lemon zest. Stir at least 30 times and then strain into a double old-fashioned glass over a large round ice cube.
  3. Add a splash of seltzer water, a couple drops of bitters and garnish with a fresh lemon zest that you pinch over the top and a sprig of fresh thyme over that.
  4. Don’t be afraid of adding more of that Mezan XO Rum if you have it handy.  This drink tastes amazing with a couple ounces of Mezan Rum.

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.

garden-eats-bitters-shrub-syrup-cocktails-warren-bobrow-author garden-eats-warren-bobrow-bitters-shrub-syrup-cocktails

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.

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.