Archive for June, 2009

Apricot Shrub: Light and Dark

Posted in Cocktails, Home Made Ingredients, Stone Fruit with tags , , , , , on June 22, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

OK. I know it’s a kind of craziness, I couldn’t resist making one more shrub this season, despite the fact that I am still working through the results of my last two efforts. Apricots have been much on my mind though. I was just been waiting until I found some really exceptional fruit. I started looking around at our local farmer’s markets and last week I found what I was looking for: some large, very ripe fruit (raised conventionally but more or less pesticide free) and at a good price. My thoughts this time were make two variations, both with cider vinegar but one with organic unrefined sugar (which is basically white) and one with Muscovado (which is basically granular molasses). Here’s a photo of what they looked like when I started maceration:

Light and Dark Apricot Shrub

How did they turn out?

These shrubs make one thing very clear to my palate: apricots and vinegar when blended together are highly complementary. In both light and dark versions it’s actually hard to tell where the taste of one ingredient stops and the taste of the other begins. The light version sampled by itself comes across almost simple tasting: neither apricot nor vinegar stands out. Mixing and diluting in a cocktail brings out more details. In the the dark version the molasses character of the Muscovado, which I was worried would be too assertive, adds welcome contrast and resulting complexity, though there is also something a bit harsh going on in there I’ve not yet figured out.

Mixing ‘em up…

Shrub continues to amaze me as cocktail ingredient. I find it’s almost always sufficient to pick a base spirit, add some shrub (more for brown goods, much less for white goods, even less for gin), chill and you’re done. Other flavors can be added but they are certainly not essential. Also, in the case of these apricot-based shrubs, mixing (essentially, diluting) with other ingredients helps to reveal more of the underlying fruit flavor.

On the other hand, when making shrub cocktails you are going to find some people who simply cannot get past the presence of vinegar in their libation, which they identify as “savory.” That’s OK: leaves more shrub for those of us who like an assertive cocktail.

One thing I haven’t noted in previous postings is that shrubs have a lot of very fine fruit particles suspended in them. This means if a cocktail is left to sit for a while will “break.” There’s nothing wrong with the drink after that point – it just needs to be swirled to mix everything back up. Still, I can see how that might not fit with everyone’s cocktail aesthetics.

Finally: the jury remains out for me whether to shake or stir these cocktails. Conventional wisdom says to shake. I’m just not so sure they need that much agitation so I’ve been stirring. What do you all think?

Apricot Almond Sour

2 oz. Osocalis brandy
1 oz. Light Apricot Shrub
1/4 oz. home made orgeat syrup
1 easy dash of Angostura bitters

Shake or stir over ice. Fine strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Apricot Almond Sour

Notes: Apricot and almond are just such a natural combination I had to make a drink based on them both. The batch of orgeat I’m currently using is particularly sweet (but also very intensely almondy). Adjust the proportion of orgeat you use accordingly. You don’t want this drink to be too sweet.

Aprikosenspiel

2 1/4 oz. Blume Marillen Apricot Eau de Vie
1/3 oz. Light Apricot Shrub
1/8 oz. Domain Canton ginger liqueur
1 dash Fee Bros. Peach Bitters

Shake or strir over ice. Fine strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Float three toasted almond slices on the top of the drink for a garnish.

Notes: I wouldn’t normally think of making a cocktail that uses an eau de vie as a base spirit but with the shrub it really works. The two play together fantastically. I added the tiniest bit of ginger liqueur and a dash of peach bitters for added complexity.

Little Shrub Punch

2 oz. Mt. Gay Eclipse rum
1 oz. Dark Apricot Shrub
1/4 oz. Navan vanilla cognac liqueur

Build in an old fashioned glass, stir, add large ice and serve. Garnish with a slice of fresh apricot.

Notes: This is modeled after a traditional Barbadian Ti (Petite) Punch. Almost any shrub flavor would do for this drink. Originally I tried this with several white agricole rums but found the vinegar did not play well against the funk. You can also skip the ice if that’s your inclination.

Experiencing the Joys of Shrub

Posted in Cherries, Cocktails, Home Made Ingredients, Stone Fruit with tags , , , , , on June 1, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

In which the author shares his recipe for black cherry balsamic shrub and a couple of cocktails which use it.

[NOTE: I've been erroneously adding a second 'b' to 'shrub' during these past posts. I think that crept in because I started out using the made-up gerund "shrubbing" ("shrubbin'") in the title of the first post. It sounded right - doubling the consonant before adding the 'ing' - but then it appears to have stuck, maybe because it sounded more rustic and old-tyme-like. At any rate, the extra 'b' has been expunged. The results are just as delicious.]

The two shrubs (raspberry/blackberry and black cherry) which I wrote about on the 16th of May are now bottled. A number of very yummy cocktails have been created, made and savored. Shrub turns out to be a very intense ingredient which concentrates the flavor of the underlying fruit with sweet and acid notes. It obviates the need to add any citrus to a cocktail and adds no additional alcohol (a good or a bad thing depending on your taste). It seems most natural to make sweet/sour type drinks with this though one could experiment with dialing the amount of shrub back to see what happens (e.g. a gin-based drink using no more than 1/4 oz. of shrub).

Below is my recipe for the black cherry balsamic shrub, which I feel is the more complex and unusual of the two I made, followed by a couple of original cocktail recipes which use it.

I also should mention that I did make Jamie Boudreau’s “Clarke’s Conundum” using my berry shrub. It was in fact the first thing I tried. It was delicious and I’d make it again. Of course I am also thinking of ways I’d tinker with it. Perhaps using an Oloroso in place of the PX to make it less sweet and a bit more nutty? Hmmm.

Bottled Raspberry/Blackberry and Black Cherry Balsamic Shrub

Black Cherry Balsamic Shrub

Ingredients:

500 grams fresh black cherries
500 grams organic sugar [1]
250 grams organic balsamic vinegar [2]
250 grams organic apple cider vinegar
2 large quills ceylonese cinnamon
8 – 12 black peppercorns, cracked by hand [3]

[1] – I was out of white sugar when I made my shrub so used turbinado (AKA demerara) sugar instead. You may use either though I think the less-refined sugar will result a deeper more complex flavor.

[3] – I recommend buying a better grade of balsamic – i.e. not the cheapest you can find – but certainly not the most expensive.

[3] – You don’t want to use coarse ground pepper for this, which will give too much surface area and possibly become too dominant a flavor. I started with whole peppercorns which I then gently cracked in a small mortar and pestle.

Equipment:

A scale for measuring ingredients in grams.
A 1-liter wide-mouthed glass jar with a well-fitting resealable lid.
A muddler or similar implement for smashing and pressing fruit.
A fine-mesh sieve or even a chinois.
A large mixing bowl made of glass or stainless-steel (i.e. non-reactive).
A medium funnel.
Cheesecloth.
Bottles for storing finished product.

Procedure:

1- Wash and remove the stems from the cherries.

2- Put the cherries into the wide mouthed glass jar (“jar”).

3- Put the sugar into the jar.

4- Use muddler to crush up the cherries, releasing juice, mixing things up with the sugar. Be sure that every cherry has been broken open.

5- Stir the cherry-sugar mixture together until all of the sugar has been moistened by the cherry juice.

6- Seal the jar and let sit in a cool place to macerate for at least 24 and up to 48 hours. I recommend you visually monitor the mixture during this time for signs of fermentation. If it looks like it’s starting to ferment you may add up to 125 grams (one half) of the cider vinegar to arrest this process.

NOTE: some slight froth is normal and does not indicate fermentation. That would be indicated by observing the formation and rise of small bubbles and the build up of CO2 gas in the jar. Also a little fermentation isn’t a bad thing but you don’t want it to get out of control as you are not making wine.

7- After maceration is complete, add the cider vinegar (or what remains of it), the balsamic vinegar, the cinnamon quills and the cracked black peppercorns to the jar, seal and shake well. Store in a cool place for at least 7 and as long as 10 days.

NOTE: over the next day or so you should aim to get all the remaining sugar crystals dissolved by shaking a few times a day. This also helps you to form a bond with your new shrub.

8- When you are ready, strain the contents of the jar into a sufficiently large non-reactive bowl. Use your muddler or the back of a large spoon to press as much liquid as possible from what remains of he cherries. Get as much a possible out before you give up on ‘em.

Pressing Cherry Goodness

9- Set up your funnel with a couple of layers of cheesecloth and pour (or ladle) the shrubb into your bottle (or bottles) for storage.

NOTE: the cheesecloth will still let a lot of very fine fruit particles pass. I think there’s a lot of flavor in them particles so this doesn’t bother me. As the shrub stands, these particles will settle out so I give my shrub a good shake before using it for a cocktail. I suppose it could be decanted – and maybe I’ll try that at some point to see how it affects the flavor. I’ll let you know.

10- You are done. Clean up and get ready to make some cocktails.

Shrub Cocktails:

Arbusto Oaxaca

1 1/2 oz. Del Maguey Minero mezcal
3/4 oz. black cherry balsamic shrub
1/4 – 1/2 oz. Tia Maria
1 dash orange bitters (*)

Stir ingredients over ice. Fine strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a long lemon twist.

I was thinking about this one the whole time I was waiting for the shrub to be ready. It seems like a natural fit between the smokiness of the mezcal, the tartness of the vinegar and the sweetness of the cherries, complemented by a little chocolate from the Tia Maria.

Arbusto Oaxaca

(*) - I actually tried my nascent chocolate orange bitters. If you are lucky enough to have access to Bittermen’s Xocolatl Mole Bitters bitters (soon to be available to the rest of us) you could give those a whirl.

Black Shrubhattan

2 oz. bourbon (I used Grand Dad Bottled in Bond)
1/2 oz. black cherry balsamic shrub
1/2 oz. Amaro Nonino
1 dash Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel Aged bitters

Stir ingredients over ice. Fine strain into a chilled cocktail glass. No garnish required.

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