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Archive for the ‘Shrubs’ Category

Louisiana StrawberriesI couldn’t pass up the strawberries at the farmers market today. The sweet smell of really ripe strawberries put me in some sort of mind-fog, and I ended up leaving with half a flat. Once I got home, the reality hit me of having so much ripe fruit just waiting to spoil. My mind started reeling on the different ways I could quickly use the bulk of the berries. Preserves? Soup? No, these wouldn’t do. Cocktails would be their fate. With vinegar… For some reason the combination of strawberries and balsamic vinegar got stuck in my head.

Last year I had clipped an article by Toby Cecchini about shrubs. Popular in the colonial days and revived during Prohibition, shrubs were brought back to life several years ago with the resurgence of the cocktail. Shrubs are basically fruit vinegars created by infusing vinegar with fresh fruit and adding sugar. The recipe Cecchini provides and others I’ve found seem to focus on raspberries. Tait Farm Foods makes and sells five varieites: cherry, cranberry, ginger, raspberry, and strawberry; therefore, I figured I could just substitute the same amount of strawberries for the raspberries in the recipes. Cecchini’s recipe is a cold infusion; while others required you to create a simple syrup, cook the fruit, and then lastly add the vinegar. Since I originally envisioned balsamic vinegar, I opted to go with a recipe that allowed me to cook the sugar and fruit together to get something closer to the syrupy, caramelized flavors of balsamic vinegar. I opted for a simple recipe published by Eric Felten, in How’s Your Drink (2007) based on Philadelphia’s City Tavern recipe:

    1 cup sugar
    1 cup water
    2 pints raspberries
    2 cups white wine vinegar

    In a saucepan, whisk sugar and water together at a boil. Reduce heat for a few minutes, then add raspberries, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Add vinegar and bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Strain, cool, and bottle. Keep refrigerated.

Jamie Boudreau has another recipe using equal parts raspberries and blackberries, red wine vinegar, and half of the amount of simple syrup than the recipe above. Jeffrey Morgenthaler has a cranberry gastrique recipe, which is essentially the same thing as a shrub. His gastrique combines white vinegar, sugar, fresh cranberries, lemon juice and zest, star anise, and cloves.

Done with kitchen duty and chilled strawberry shrub in hand, it’s off to the bar to test some drinks. Since both Jamie Boudreau and Jeffery Morgenthler had cocktail recipes that used their shrub/gastrique, I figured it was a good place to start.

    Jan's ConundrumJan’s Conundrum by Jamie Boudreau
    2 ¼ oz Barbancourt 8 yr rum
    ½ oz Dry Amontillado Sherry
    ½ oz raspberry/blackberry shrub
    3 dashes of Angostura bitters
    lemon twist for garnish

    Stir all ingredients with ice and garnish with lemon twist.

    Flor De BayaFlor De Baya by Jeffrey Morgenthaler
    2 ounces reposado tequila
    3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
    1/2 ounce simple syrup
    1 teaspoon cranberry gastrique
    lime for garnish

    Shake ingredients with cracked ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lime.

Since I don’t have Amontillado Sherry, I had to use the Manzanilla Sherry we have on hand. It’s more dry than an Amontilliado and isn’t fortified. In both I used my strawberry shrub in the same proportion as the shrub/gastrique called for. I think Jan’s Conundrum suffered for not having the Amontillado – it lacked a layer of sweetness and balance, but I could make out the flavors of the rum, sherry, and shrub. Flor De Baya called for very little of the gastrique and with my strawberry shrub I couldn’t really pick up any of the strawberries or acidity from the vinegar. When I increased the amount of shrub to 1/4 ounce, the drink was noticeably improved. Of the two, the Flor De Baya variation outscored Jan by one letter grade.

For my own part of the test, I submit a rum-based cocktail — I’ll let you grade it. It’s based on the Queen’s Park Swizzle:

    Lafayette Square Swizzle
    4 mint leaves
    2 ounces Demerara rum
    1/2 ounce cinnamon syrup
    1/2 ounce strawberry shrub
    3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
    crushed ice
    Mint spring for garnish

    Place mint in a highball glass and muddle gently just to bruise the leaves. Add remaining ingredients and crushed ice. Using a traditional swizzle stick or bar spoon, swizzle the drink until frost appears on the outside of the glass. Garnish with mint and serve with a straw.

Go on, take a sip and admit vinegar tastes good in a drink.

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