In INFUSED, a weekly column, Elizabeth J. Musgrave connects spirits, wine, and beer with culinary and creative arts
A resurgence of an old-fashioned bartender staple has emerged. Shrubs are popping up in homes and bars nationwide creating confusion with novice and seasoned drinkers alike. What is it? How do I use it? Can I make it myself?
I first came into contact with shrubs at Iozzo’s, Indianapolis, and became intrigued and started researching. Shrub means “to drink” in its native Arabic language and is also the word origin for sherbet and syrup as well. It became common in the 18th Century as a fruit, sugar and alcohol drink. Modern day shrubs are added to mixed drinks to create a much more intense depth of flavor. If paired properly with the other ingredients, it can intensify, highlight and broaden the flavors of the drink.
My friends at Cielo, St. Louis’ swanky rooftop modern Italian restaurant and nightspot, which sits high atop Four Seasons Hotel, were kind enough to create a teaching video. I spoke with in-residence mixologist, Cory Cuff, Certified Specialist of Spirits and instructor for Cielo’s mixology courses offered to Four Season’s guests, where topics include, Basic Mixing, Spirits & Cocktail Era, Pure Shrubbery, Advanced Bartending and Bar Managing. Cuff’s Pure Shrubbery course teaches the definition, use and types of shrubs, as well as creating and using the cordials.
Infused: In one sentence; what is a shrub?
Cory Cuff: It’s a vinegar-based cordial.
I: Do you drink it by itself or in a cocktail?
CC: All good shrubs should be able to be drunk alone; however, you want to put it with ingredients that will highlight and emphasize what you’re trying to get across. Cucumber-lime shrub? Put it with tequila: it’s a natural fit and will elevate both elements.
I: How difficult is it to make at home?
CC: It’s not difficult to make it. It’s mostly the mind frame that I am going to put vinegar in a mixed drink. Once you get over that mind frame and treat it as a cordial or another mixing element, the sky is the limit.
I: Does it have to be refrigerated afterwards?
CC: It should be.
I: Is it cooked?
CC: It is boiled with sugar. You’ll boil it for about 10 minutes and that’s what you use. It softens the bite of the acid.
I: What type of vinegar?
CC: I’ve been using a lot of Champagne vinegar and, recently, balsamic, however you can make your own vinegar or use any vinegar you want. It’s the end product that matters.
Elizabeth J. Musgrave is the editor for GottaGo.us, writing the fine-living syndicated column and syndicated blog, Gotta Go. Published both in print and online at GottaGo.us, AroundIndy.com, and BroadwayWorld.com, Gotta Go offers reviews and recommendations on food and drink, the performing arts, and travel destinations.
Elizabeth is also a freelance writer, photographer, public speaker, and a leading Indianapolis performing arts and restaurant critic. She can be heard on 93 WIBC's Saturday Morning News Show as Indy’s entertainment adviser, and can also be found on Twitter,LinkedIn, and Facebook.