Tang is one of the most important flavors in a cocktail: It balances out a salty rim and sweet syrup and brightens up bitter booze. Thanks to the country’s growing taste for gourmet cocktails, drinking vinegar, also known as the shrub, is becoming an increasingly popular way to add pucker to a drink. Here’s an introduction to this endlessly adaptable—and incredibly easy to DIY—sweet-and-sour liquid.
Drinking Vinegar Isn’t As Fancy As It Sounds
Drinking vinegar is a flavored simple syrup that’s derived from vinegar instead of water and defined by three ingredients: 2 cups each of fruit and vinegar, and 1 cup of sugar. You can use any type of fruit to make them and the result is a tangy, sweet, fruity vinegar that you can sub in for simple syrup and limes and lemons in cocktails or add to seltzer for homemade soda.
But It Does Date Way Back
Lacking refrigeration, the Romans and American colonists made shrubs (derived from the Arabic word “sharāb,” which means “to drink”) to preserve excess fruit. Makers would macerate (softening fruit in sugar) seasonal harvests, like berries or rhubarb or pears, then cover them in vinegar to prevent rotting; the acid in vinegar retains flavor. Bonus: The resulting vinegar could make unfiltered water and subpar wine taste better. Drinking vinegar also might be a health remedy. Combining vinegar with fizzy club soda is an age-old American custom thought to aid digestion.
Why They’re Making a Comeback
For bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts, drinking vinegars achieve the acidic punch of citrus while delivering a fruity flavor with a lot of depth. In general, more people are expanding their palates to include the signature sourness that vinegar offers. Case in point: the continued rise of kombucha. Like quick-pickling or canning, crafting drinking vinegars is a culinary project easy enough to do in your kitchen that’s bound to impress friends.
How to DIY
Unlike bitters, which are on the upswing, there aren’t many sources for buying your own drinking vinegars. The Portland-based restaurant group Pok Pok sells its tasty Som drinking vinegars in Southeast Asian flavors like Thai basil and tamarind. Fortunately, making drinking vinegars at home is easy and a great option when you have an abundance of your favorite produce. Want to sip a raspberry-basil shrub in November? Yes, please. Here’s how to make one:
Combine 2 cups chopped fruit with 1 cup sugar in a bowl. (If your fruit is sour, add up to ½ cup more sugar.) Mash together, then let the mixture macerate in the fridge for up to 2 days, or until the fruit looks collapsed and the liquid has a strong fruit flavor. Add 2 cups champagne or apple cider vinegar and let sit in the fridge for 1 day. Strain the fruit (you can save it for stirring into oatmeal or yogurt) and transfer the shrub to a glass jar.
Add an ounce to cocktails or make a homemade soda by combining 1 part shrub to 4 parts seltzer.
(Image: About A Mom)