Vinegar Should Be Added to Cocktails
Vinegar is an essential liquid in the kitchen. It adds brilliance to salad dressings, softens meats in marinades, and thickens fatty dishes to restore balance. It also makes a bad cocktail.
While “drinking vinegar” sounds like the exact opposite of what you would like to do, there are ways to drink acetic acid that are downright refreshing. Once you start thinking of it like any other acid you would drink – hello lemon juice – a whole world of sweet, sour and slightly invigorating options opens up before you.
There are two ways to incorporate acidic liquids into your life. You can make a quirky, syrupy bush with fruity notes, or add some bottles directly to the drink. Let’s start with these bushes.
Syrups, sweet bushes
As with the best summer days, creating a bush always means being lazy. There are many recipes, but I like to use a 2-2-2 ratio – which, using our math, is actually 1-1-1, but stay with me – two cups of fruit, two cups of vinegar. and two cups of sugar. You can cook them using both hot and cold dishes, but I’ve always found this casual New York Times approach to produce delicious results.
There are many options and you can change any of the three ingredients to suit your whims and desires. The only thing I would like to warn you against is using plain white vinegar, which will overwhelm the fruit with its aggressive, somewhat violent nature. Apple cider vinegar pairs well with most fruits and flavors, but champagne and sherry vinegar can work wonders as well. However, plain white sugar is a great choice as it allows the fruit to shine and perform at its best. However, don’t rule out brown sugar; it can add a little depth and complexity.
If you’re having trouble coming up with scent combinations, here are some ideas to help you get more done:
- Strawberry + white sugar + champagne vinegar
- Peaches + 50/50 brown and white sugar mix + apple cider vinegar + grated ginger stick (bonus!)
- Pears + White Sugar + Red Wine Vinegar
- Blueberries + white sugar + sherry vinegar + strips of whole lemon zest (give them some sugar scrub to squeeze out the oils before adding them to the mixture).
- Tomatoes (what? YES) + white sugar + white wine vinegar + a handful of fresh dill and celery seeds
Regardless of which combination you use, start by chopping the fruit and coating them with sugar, stirring well. You can even stretch it a little if you have aggression to train. Then let the osmosis do its thing and leave your (covered) bowl of succulent sweetness on the counter for a day or two until you have pleasant, runny-looking fruit. Strain the fruit juice — save the fruit for ice cream, or freeze it in pretty cubes for future cocktails — and pour the sweet, sweet nectar into a sterilized jar. Add 1/2 cup vinegar at a time, tasting after each addition until you achieve the flavor profile you want. (If your favorite fruit is naturally tart, you may not need two whole cups.)
You can use your bush right now, but I love letting everyone hang out in the fridge for the day, just to get to know. The bushes are delicious when mixed with plain seltzer water, but your day will be even brighter when you invite gin (or rum, or vodka, or whiskey) to the party. An ounce and a half of your favorite booze combined with half an ounce of your bush and then doused with soda is the perfect invigorating blend of sweet, sour, and strong, but you can have even more fun using some of the recipes on this blog .
Of course, you don’t have to make your own, there are some great pre-made bushes, including the Somm series from Portland’s own Pok Pok . You can also add vinegar to your drinks, which we’ll talk about later.
Beauties in bottles
Do you know those fancy-tasting little vinegar bottles you see in trendy olive oil stores in the mall? This is where these babies really come in handy. Our very own Sam Bitoni got me to try the honey-ginger white balsamic, and I’m happy to report that this is a gin cocktail craze.
Apple cider vinegar is also a good choice, especially when combined with whiskey and honey. A lot of people drink apple cider vinegar for health reasons, but I don’t really do that because my health has never been a high priority for me (sorry Mom). I love to add spicy liquid to my drinks, but I do it because it makes my mouth happy. As with any cocktail or non-alcoholic cocktail, adding a strong, assertive ingredient requires thoughtful thinking. There are many interesting possible combinations here, but my favorite universal vinegar shake recipe is a simple combination of two ounces of alcohol, one ounce of sweetener, and 1/2 ounce of flavored vinegar. (Again, avoid plain white.) Stir it all together, drizzle with crushed ice, and add a few ounces of sparkling water for a very refreshing drink. Some possible combinations include:
- 2 oz gin + 1 oz simple thyme syrup + 1/2 balsamic ginger with honey (or any fruity white balsamic)
- 2 ounces bourbon + 30 ml honey syrup (3 parts honey to 1 part water) + 1/2 ounce apple cider vinegar
- 2 ounces rye + 30 grams maple syrup + 1/2 ounce sherry vinegar
Also, I really love the burst of funky ACV in Bloody Mary, especially if it’s a dog hair morning. Sometimes I need a little bit of harsh acid to feel human again.