Vinegar Gets Popular in Cocktails

Vinegar can be found in nearly every cupboard in every town in every country around the world. For over 10,000 years, humans have found inspiring uses for it – from healing elixirs, to pickling, to cleaning, to dissolving chewing gum, to preserving fruit. Vinegar was most likely created by accident by some sad sap who neglected a cask of wine out behind the local pub, only to find upon his return that it had turned sour (the French word for it is “vinaigre,” which, directly translated, means “sour wine”). And thus, like so many other happy accidents in the beverage world, vinegar was born.

At its root, it’s quite a simple process to make vinegar: The fermentation of natural sugars to alcohol is followed by a secondary fermentation to vinegar. In a world without refrigeration, like that of colonial America, spoilage was a constant enemy. Vinegar created a veritable Fountain of Youth for fruits. Shrubs – beverages made with fruit, sugar and vinegar – and vinegar-fruit syrups came into use.

And today, after nearly being lost to time by the advent of refrigeration and industrially processed foods, shrubs and drinking vinegars are roaring back into fashion for the making of cocktails. Driven by progressive bartenders on the hunt for new flavors to add to their liquid arsenals, as well as the current lime shortage that’s hit the United States, the trend – which arguably began nearly 10 years ago – is now reaching a feverish pitch. Vinegar-based cocktails and nonalcoholic drinks can now be found in mainstream bars and restaurants around the country.

Kelley Slagle, a New York-based mixologist who taught a seminar at Tales of the Cocktail in 2011 called “Vinegar: the Other Acid,” was quickly enamored with the history of vinegar-based drinks.

“Shrubs are a colonial American staple that started as a way to preserve fruit, but were also meant to be used for drinks,” she said, pointing out that Jerry Thomas, who created the first bartenders’ guide with cocktail recipes in 1862, even had a recipe on how to make vinegar shrubs. “Lemon juice is great in drinks, but it’s somewhat neutral in flavor. I love vinegar because you just get a lot more flavor. Instead of adding a one-dimensional character, you’re adding something that’s inherently complex.”

Joe Cleveland, bar manager at chef Michael Chiarello’s Coqueta in San Francisco, has been working with vinegar in cocktails for nearly 10 years and currently has three drinks with vinegar on his cocktail list. He describes them as being “high in acid with bright flavors that are refreshing palate cleansers” and pair wonderfully with Coqueta’s Spanish-influenced food.

“We serve a lot of tapas, and the vinegar cuts through the oils of both the cheeses and the fatty, grilled meats,” he said.

He develops his drinks with the seasons and looks to both the markets and the chefs for inspiration, but also finds that vinegar shrubs allow him to “bring a bright summer flavor to a winter drink.”

With the current lime shortage hitting the bar and restaurant industry hard, operators are seeing the cost of limes skyrocket, forcing them to nix lime as a garnish and look for alternative sources of acidity in drinks. Paul McGee, a mixologist at Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago, has had to quickly shift his approach to developing his recipes.

“My cost per ounce of lime juice was previously 18 cents; now it’s 62 cents. That’s approaching the cost of some of the spirits you may be using,” he said. “The cost of shrubs varies between 20 to 40 cents per ounce. That’s another reason people are searching for different forms of acidity. You’re going to start seeing the trend of alternatives to lemon and lime juice.”

Back

What Clients Say About Patrice & Associates

  • Jonathan Litt is a wonderful person and great recruiter!

    Thank you for all the assistance you provided me during my job search. I appreciate the information and advice that Johnathan Litt had given, as well as the connections you have shared with me. Your expertise and help have been invaluable during this.  I’ll never forget your help and your friendship, you are one and only one, thanks again.
    Sincerely,
    Shahriar Lou Mehrdad
    Jonathan Litt is a wonderful person and great recruiter!
  • I’m still in awe of Gary Kinsinger's abilities!

    It has been such an honor to work with Patrice & Associates, but more specifically with Gary Kinsinger. I’ve worked with recruiters in the past, however none as detail oriented and diligent as Mr. Kinsinger. From the moment he initially reached out to me, all the way to my first day in my new position, Gary was and is still very present in making sure my comfort and needs are met. I truly can’t put into words how beyond grateful I am to have worked with Gary. And with no doubt in my mind would recommend his services to anyone in the market. Gary matched me with the role of my dreams in just one and a half weeks. Thank you so much, Gary Kinsinger!
    Best,
    Angela L DeFalco
    I’m still in awe of Gary Kinsinger's abilities!
  • Kathy Helfand is a true asset to Patrice & Associates

    I worked with Kathy Helfand and I was very lucky to have her help getting me placed with an amazing company. She was there with me every step of the way from the interview process to even the follow up after I started the job. She knew from the beginning what the client wanted and was able to place me where she knew I would be a great fit. I am very grateful for everything she did to help me on my way!

       

    Thank you,

    Daniel Nichols

    Kathy Helfand is a true asset to Patrice & Associates
  • Shannon Wilcox was absolutely amazing throughout the whole recruitment process!

    I have never met such a professional and dedicated recruitment person. I cannot thank him enough for his full support, for believing in me and for helping me start a new chapter of my professional career within just one week! Shannon, you are brilliant at what you do.
    Sincerely,
    George Acosta
    Shannon Wilcox was absolutely amazing throughout the whole recruitment process!
  • David Brown has been more than incredible!

    David Brown with Patrice & Associates was absolutely instrumental in the process of me finding a new work environment for myself. He was there to assist me in any way possible during the application and hiring process, and was beyond excellent in matching me with a position that met my needs! He consistently checked in with me, and provided incredible support to make sure I was fully prepared for a successful application and interview process. I am beyond grateful for his help and could not be happier with my job!         Gratefully, Nicholas Reznik David Brown has been more than incredible!