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.
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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.
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.
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.
Brandon and Molly met because of a mutual interest in food - or, more specifically, when Brandon read Molly's food blog Orangette and sent her an e-mail that included some very effective compliments. The better part of a decade later, they co-own and run the restaurant Delancey and its sibling Essex, in Seattle. Brandon is the chef of both, and when he's not manning the wood-burning oven, he likes to make things from scratch that more sane people would probably buy, like mustard, vinegars, pretzels, and obscurely flavored liqueurs. Molly is the manager / Organizer of All Things at Delancey and Essex, and she is also the author of the New York Times bestseller A Homemade Life and the forthcoming memoir Delancey. They have a young daughter named June, who is excitedly crawling toward the refrigerator as Molly types this sentence, and two dogs named Jack and Alice.