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:
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.
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.
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.