I’ve always had a penchant for vinegary things, but it wasn’t until I dined (and drank) at Pok Pok in Portland that I learned about a little something called the drinking vinegar. Also known as a shrub, this perfectly sweet and sour concoction dates back to the times way before modern refrigeration, when the only way to preserve fruits was to store them in bacteria-killing vinegar.
Although this is a very old concept, shrubs have enjoyed a sort of renaissance as of late, appearing on cocktail menus across the country (even here in Iowa City!). And it’s easy to see why. An ounce or two of this stuff adds instant complexity and deliciousness to pretty much any tipple you can imagine. If you’re not into the whole booze thing, shrubs are equally delicious when mixed with some ice cold sparkling water for a tart, tangy, endlessly refreshing homemade soda.
HOMEMADE PINEAPPLE SHRUB
• 1 small pineapple
• apple cider vinegar
• 3/4 c. sugar
1. Sanitize two mason jars by washing them with soap and boiling them in water for 10 minutes (this will kill any pesky bacteria).
2. Chop up your pineapple into smallish pieces and fill your your mason jars.
3. Pour apple cider vinegar into the jar until it’s full and your pineapple is completely submerged; close jars.
4. Let your jars sit on the counter for about a week, shaking them briefly every day to mix up the contents.
5. After about a week, pour your pineapple and vinegar mixtures into a big bowl and lightly mash the pineapples with a potato masher.
6. Strain the mixture over a cheesecloth, removing all of the pineapple pieces and squeezing all the liquid you can out of them.
7. Pour the shrub into a medium-sized saucepan and add sugar. I used about 3/4 cup of sugar to bring out the flavor of the pineapple without losing the tartness of the vinegar, but the amount of sugar you use is totally up to you.
8. Heat the mixture until your sugar has dissolved, let cool and pour back into re-sanitized mason jars. I’m told this will store nicely for several months if left refrigerated and unopened, but I’ve never had the self-control to test that out.
SERRANO SIMPLE SYRUP
• 1 or 2 Serrano peppers
• 1 c. sugar
• 1 c. water
1. Add equal parts sugar and water to a saucepan along with one or two thinly sliced Serrano peppers, depending on how spicy you want your syrup.
2. Heat the mixture over medium heat until all of the sugar is dissolved.
3. Let cool, strain and enjoy!
PINEAPPLE SHRUB + SERRANO COCKTAIL
• 2 oz. tequila
• 2 oz. pineapple shrub
• 1/2 oz. Serrano simple syrup
1. Fill a shaker with ice and add tequila, pineapple shrub and Serrano simple syrup. Shake well.
2. Fill a highball glass with crushed ice and pour cocktail over ice. Garnish with candied Serrano slices or pineapple pieces.