Before the advent of soda pop, you know that tooth-rotting stuff that everyone slurps down by the gallon, people around the world used more natural means for refreshment. Whatever the case may be, the addition of herbal bitters to craft cocktails have a rich history in healing the gut, just like drinks made with vinegar heals the gut after a night of too much revelry leading to a sour head and stomach.
To fully understand why we drink liquids for pleasure certainly dates back to the age of man and beyond. It makes perfect sense to drink water — it’s a necessary component to life. Drinking soda has a more integral reasoning. It tastes good, is (hopefully) refreshing and provides energy in the form of added sugar. In modern times, we have water purification, but imagine for a moment back when the water was poisonous. Water treatment required electricity and somewhat modern chemicals to purify what flowed downstream. Without purified water, stomach ailments abounded. That’s why people drank vinegar and also preparations containing herbs and spices, such as Angostura or Peychaud’s Bitters. There was alcohol in the mix, that is for certain- helpful in curing what ailed ye, but not only the alcohol, but the vague premise that the herbs and spices were doing the heavy lifting of healing.
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Back in the early days, these vinegar based liquids were called Shrubs. No, not those things that your grandparents planted in front of the house at the Shore. These shrubs contain fruit, vinegar of some kind and sugar. There is a rudimentary form of fermentation, in the form of the sugar breaking down the enzymes of the either fruit or vegetable, the vinegar acts to preserve the delicate fruit for months on end. A shrub is quite refreshing, enjoyed in the hot sun or when afflicted with a belly-ache. In Vietnam, they are doing much with vinegar and I’m leading off these Five Drinks Made with Vinegar with a tasty little cocktail of my own devise.
Buôn Mê Thuột Fizzy
- Coconut water ice (freeze a quart of coconut water in the large sized cube trays made of silicon with a frozen leaf of cilantro in the center)
- ¼ oz. Freshly Squeezed lime juice
- 1 oz. Sweet Rice Wine Vinegar
- 1 oz. Turbanado 2:1 Simple Syrup
- 2 oz. Botanical Gin (such as Hendrick’s)
- Splash of Grapefruit Soda (made with cane sugar, NOT corn syrup)
- Lemon Zest/Lime leaf sliver cut with a scissor
Add all the ingredients with regular bar ice into a shaker tin. Cap and shake hard for 15 seconds. Double Strain into pre-chilled rocks glasses with large coconut (and cilantro) ice cubes are resting. Splash the grapefruit soda over the top. Garnish with Lemon Zest and Lime leaf sliver.
This next drink reminds me of those early energy drinks that died out once soda pop took over. They are called Switchel’s. They have a touch of maple syrup in the mix and I’m thrilled by them, especially this one (following) that is crisp, aromatic and very, very refreshing. It just happens to be made with Rye Whiskey from a boutique producer named Barrell. I would say order some today for next year. It’s that hard to get. Insider Tip: Order the Rye today for Christmas. Yup, you heard it here first!
The Ashtray Situation
- ¼ oz. Dark Maple Syrup
- 1 oz. Light Balsamic Vinegar
- 3 oz. Barrell Rye Whiskey
- 1 oz. Ginger Beer (I used Pickett’s Syrup)
- 1 oz. Seltzer Water
- 3-4 shakes Peychaud’s Bitters
Place all the ingredients (except the seltzer) in a tall glass with large cube ice. Stir to combine. Then add the seltzer. Add a tall straw and dot with the bitters. Delicious!
The next drink is built like a Negroni, which is three ingredients: gin, Campari (or like) and Sweet Vermouth (I love Carpano Antica Formula). Imagine for a moment that along with the Carpano Antica Formula, you add about a thimble full of well-aged Balsamic Vinegar? I would drink this in a heartbeat.
Stair One, Level B3
(this cocktail is a 1:1:1:1)
- 1 oz. London Dry Gin such as Beefeaters Gin
- 1 oz. Campari
- 1 oz. Carpano Antica
- 1 oz. Acieto Balsamico (Aged Balsamic Vinegar)
Add all ingredients to a cocktail mixing glass filled ¾ with ice. (Pro tip: Stir Stir Stir but don’t dilute! Practice!). Strain into a coupe glass, no ice, but garnish with an ultra-luxe style Luxardo Maraschino Cherry (if you are using those red things in the fridge, throw them out!)
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Where would I be if I didn’t include at least one Rum cocktail? I’m massively interested in the richly expressive rum that is distilled in Massachusetts named Privateer Rum. Perhaps it’s the fact that Massachusetts has a long history of distillation, so much that Privateer Rum tastes remarkably like rum that comes from that slice of time in our national identity.
Whatever the case may actually be, when I drink rum that is made with as much care as Privateer is obviously crafted with, I cannot do much to it. Perhaps that is the charm. When you start with something really good, it becomes something even better with some simple and robust ingredients added that may have made their way to Massachusetts. Back in the day at least. And I’m using a special syrup also from Massachusetts made with cranberries for a hint of acidity and mystery in each sip.
You’re Talking About Memories
- 2 oz. Privateer Dark Rum
- 1 oz. White Balsamic Vinegar
- ½ oz. Cherry Heering
- 1 oz. Pineapple Juice
- 2 oz. Fruitations Cranberry Soda and Cocktail Syrup
- 1 oz. Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
- Coconut Water Ice Cubes for the glass
Add all the juices, the Cherry Heering and the rum into a Boston Shaker filled ¾ with bar ice. Cap and shake hard for 15-30 seconds. Pour over coconut water ice cubes and served with a tall and colorful straw. This cocktail reminds me of the music of Bill Monroe, the brilliant mandolin player from back in the day before you were born!
Mule Skinner Blues
- 1 oz. Barrell Bourbon Whiskey
- ¼ oz. Dry Vermouth
- 1 oz. Roasted Peach Muddle (slice peaches, sprinkle with the 2 oz. of balsamic vinegar, roast for an hour until nicely caramelized @ 350 degrees)
- 2 oz. Balsamic Vinegar for the peaches and another 2 oz. of Balsamic Vinegar for the cocktail
- Bunch of fresh mint
Muddle the roasted peaches with the balsamic and the vermouth until the liquids start to come out. Add the Barrell Bourbon Whiskey. Add some more of the balsamic roasted peaches. Muddle some more, add a bit of well washed fresh mint, muddle a touch more, lightly, just to reveal the juices. Add the Barrell Bourbon. Pour the muddled peaches, bourbon and mint into pre-chilled rocks glasses. Serve with a sprig of mint and a tiny fork to eat the salubrious peaches soaked in mint, balsamic and bourbon.