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New Book Shows Off Merits of Shrubs in Cocktails

on 12/11/14 at 10:52 am

Booze News, Gift Guide

indexYou might not enjoy slurping down a glass of straight vinegar, but throw some fruit and sugar in with the vinegar and the resulting shrub, as it’s called, makes any drink — alcoholic or not — a refreshing thirst-quencher.

Although vinegar-based syrups haven’t been common in the days since canning and refrigeration were invented, they’ve been making a comeback in the craft cocktail world lately as bartenders bring back pre-Prohibition recipes and ingredients. Writer Michael Dietsch has been right in the center of shrubs’ resurgence, and he’s written a book, “Shrubs: An Old-Fashioned Drink for Modern Times” (Countryman Press, $24.95), to help people make them in their own homes, much as they would have done at the height of shrubs’ popularity in the late 1700s through the 1800s, when there were just as often alcohol-laced shrubs as vinegar-based ones.

“Shrubs might be trendy right now, but the idea of drinking vinegar is ancient,” Dietsch writes in the section of the book that delves into shrubs’ long history. “Vinegar, of course, is made from wine… Wine has been around for at least 8,000 years, and because wine naturally turns to vinegar as it ages, vinegar then must be nearly as old as wine.”

Booze-based shrubs gained a following in the 1700s, when rum was still a young, rough beverage that didn’t go down so easy and needed sugar and the juice of an acidic fruit like oranges or lemons to taste better. But shrubs as we know them today center around vinegar, and they don’t always have to go into an alcoholic beverage.