You'll no longer have to buy a plane ticket to get in on the cocktails at Seattle's Essex: Owners Brandon Pettit and Molly Wizenberg (a.k.a. Orangette) will be sharing their favorite recipes with us, every other week. Drink up, people.
Today: A drink trend worth paying attention to, that happens to double as an edible gift.
We may be jumping the gun here, proposing a holiday gift idea before the sun has even set on Thanksgiving Day. But this gift requires some advance planning -- two weeks, to be precise -- and you’ll need something to do this weekend, right, between turkey sandwiches? We’d like to suggest that you get some pears and vinegar and make pear shrub.
Shrub, or “drinking vinegar,” is not a new concept: People in many cultures have made shrubs for hundreds of years, both for the supposed health benefits of vinegar and as a way of preserving fruit prior to refrigeration. But shrubs fell out of popularity for a while, at least here in the U.S., and they've only recently made a resurgence, showing up in restaurants and bars (maybe most notably at Pok Pok, where the menu offers no less than eight flavors at any given time). Shrub is trendy, but it’s a trend worth paying attention to: Tart, refreshing, weirdly delicious. It’s also versatile. You can stir it with seltzer to make a non-alcoholic soda, or you can mix it into a cocktail.
More: Not a pear fan? Make a fresh apple shrub.
Shrubs are easy to make at home -- all you need is fresh fruit, sugar, and vinegar. There are a few different methods, some of which involve cooking the fruit and some of which don’t, but we find that we get the purest, brightest fruit flavor when we don’t use heat, and when we let the fruit and the vinegar hang out together for a nice long time. Our method calls for macerating the fruit in a little sugar to draw out its juices before adding vinegar and puréeing the mixture, so that the cells of the fruit are broken open and release every last bit of their flavor. Then you put that fruit-and-vinegar slurry in the fridge and forget about it for a couple of weeks, or even longer. When you’re ready to use it, strain out the solids, add more sugar to offset the acidity, and it’s ready.
More: Skip the booze, and try pear soda.
At Essex, our current menu has two carbonated cocktails that use shrubs made last summer: One that combines tequila, watermelon shrub, and soda, and another combining bourbon, peach shrub, and soda. But we just made our first pear shrub of the year, and now that’s all we can think about, both as a non-alcoholic soda and shaken into a classic daiquiri, with rum, lime, and simple syrup.
In any case, enough talk. Go make a batch for yourself -- or, if you like to give homemade gifts as much as we do, make a few batches.
For the shrub
1 large ripe pear, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 cup apple cider vinegar
For the daiquiri
2 ounces light rum (we use Plantation 3 Stars)
1/2 ounce lime
1/2 ounce shrub
Barspoon of heavy simple syrup
Photos by Molly Wizenberg