Drinking vinegar: perfect for healthy sodas or creative cocktails.
In the U.S., drinking vinegar, also known as a “shrub,” go back to colonial days, which makes sense: if you didn’t have a refrigerator and wanted to preserve fruit, mashing it up with sugar and adding a little vinegar was a great way to do so. Vinegar-based drinks go back even farther than that, all the way to Roman times in fact, when vinegar and water were mixed together for the drink called posca.
Tart and sweet all at the same time, drinking vinegars are good on their own and perfect as a base for a cocktail. Fortunately for you, they’re easy to make at home. Here’s a basic guide to getting you on drinking vinegar going at home.
Get the right equipment
Essential tools for making drinking vinegars include cheesecloth (or something to strain with), a glass jar to make your drinking vinegar in, and a nice bottle to store it in.
Pick your base
Making drinking vinegar is the perfect way to put end of season fruit and berries to use. Essentially you can use any fruit you want, and it doesn’t need to be pretty fruit; all those bruised pears you didn’t know what to do with now have a purpose. You can also go beyond fruits, for more savory tasting drinking vinegars. Think vegetables that have a sweetness to them, like beets and carrots. Even fennel can work paired with the right ingredients.
Choose your method
There are two main methods for making drinking vinegar: the hot process and the cold process. The hot process involves using the stove to make a syrup, while the cold process simply involves letting fruit, vinegar and sugar sit and do their own thing. I’m personally a fan of combining the fruit and vinegar in a jar and shaking method.
As a general rule of thumb for drinking vinegars, go for a ratio of one part fruit, one part sugar and one part vinegar, like an apple cider vinegar. Some recipes call for macerating the fruit with sugar first and then adding in the vinegar about 24 hours later, and other ones combine the fruit and vinegar first and then add in the sugar.
Let it sit
If you’re making drinking vinegars with the cold process method, don’t expect instant gratification. The drinking vinegar has to sit and age a little, usually for about a week.
Get creative with ingredients
Don’t forget that beyond your base ingredients you add in herbs to change up the drinking vinegar. Everything from basil to vanilla bean to rose petals.
Mix and drink
Once you’ve got your drinking vinegar prepared, it’s time to drink it. Go for a 5 to 1 ratio of water to drinking vinegar, and then adjust from there depending on your tastes. You can use drinking vinegars and sparkling water to make a healthy soda, or add a bit of alcohol to create a fun cocktail.
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