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What it is

Late-breaking telexes from the craft spirit front by Wayne Curtis, author of And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in 10 Cocktails, columnist for Imbibe, and designated drinker for The Atlantic magazine.

  • And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails
    And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails
    by Wayne Curtis

Contact: Email me via www.waynecurtis.com

Twitter: @waynecurtis

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Entries in recipes (11)

Sunday
Jun032012

Swinging, drinking, crooning at the Museum of the American Cocktail

One of the joys of getting older and becoming disorganized and forgetful is that life becomes a series of pleasant surprises. Like yesterday, when I found in my camera a video I'd forgotten I'd shot a couple of weeks ago. It's Dale DeGroff croooning at the World Cocktail Day swing ball and fundraiser to benefit the Museum of the American Cocktail.

And more: I'd forgot I had taken these still shots that evening.

 

And, then, while cleaning up my desk in advance of my migration to Maine (assuming I remember how to drive there), I found on the back of a business card the recipe for Nick Detrich’s splendid cocktail he made for the event, called the Mystery Train. If I had to categorize it, I’d call it one of the new strain of bitter-inflected tiki drinks. Also, I’d categorize it as delicious.

Mystery Train
1.5 oz Myer’s Rum
1.5 oz fresh pineapple juice
.75 oz Demerara sugar syrup (2:1)
.75 oz fresh lime juice
.75 oz Campari
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Shake with ice and strain into glass misted with Pernod.  

Getting old: it’s just like Christmas, but with more booze.

Tuesday
May012012

A drink with The Boss

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Here’s a quandary: what drink should you make when Bruce Springsteen drops by?

I was faced with that dilemma last Sunday when a small group of us — my wife, my stepson and his girlfriend, and my Alaskan niece and her husband — all ventured to Jazzfest. We, along with 100,000 of our dearest friends, immediately headed to the huge Acura stage to wait four hot, sunny hours for the Springsteen show. (Bonus: we got to hear sets by Trombone Shorty and Dr. John while waiting.) Somehow we managed to worm our way up to the front of the general admission area and set up base camp. That is, if by “base camp” you mean a square of approximately seven-and-a-half inches of lawn.

Once this was secured, I set out on a foray in search of a nice cocktail. This is no small feat at Jazzfest. The choice is mostly lite beer (although some hidden vendors sell Foster’s), overpriced wine, and slushy, sweet daiquiris served from machines the size of commercial clothes washers.

So instead I angled for the stand selling Mango Freeze — which, if you’ve never been to Jazzfest, is an amazingly refreshing sort of mango sherbet. I got two styro bowls, mashed them upside down atop one another for insulation, then put my head down and began the long and wearying trek back to base camp. (Process: place your hand lightly on back or shoulder of person in front of you, repeat “’scuze me,” “just stepping through,” “sorry to bother,” about 12,000 times until you find your people.)   

Now, bringing liquor into Jazzfest is illegal and frowned upon by the authorities. Unsmiling people search your bags as you enter to prevent this. And I can’t encourage or condone stupid and juvenile efforts to sneak in liquor. But, somehow, back at base camp, through inexplicable and possibly miraculous circumstances, I found myself in possession of two flasks of Banks Five Island Rum. Also — and these must have been left in my daypack from a previous event — I found a battery-powered swizzle stick, a large plastic mixing cup, and a small bottle of Bitter Truth Orange Bitters.

I know. What are the odds?

Anyway, big scoops of mango freeze and a gurgling freehand pour of rum went into the mixing cup, along with a bit of water to loosen it all up. Then came the hum of a battery powered mixer, followed by a fragrant rummy and mangoish aroma. Banks Rum and mango are perfectly cordial mates, but a bit simple in their outlook. So in went some generous dashes of complicating bitters. Then, strangely, I found six paper cups in my pack. I poured all around, and we all toasted The Boss.(Side note: a benefit of becoming dehydrated in the parching sun is that you don’t ever have to pee.)

Then: Bruce came on stage, accompanied by a flood of powerful high school memories. My mango cocktail fortunately helped me manage and direct these to a good place. And about halfway through his two-plus hour show Bruce waded into the crowd and ended up on a small stage about eight feet to our left. He ascended and sang “Waiting for a Sunny Day.”  Then he stepped out on the railing about a foot from the stage.

What happened next is a matter of some conjecture among our party. Some believe he spontaneously chose to crowd-surf, or possibly he lost his balance and decided just to go with it. However, others of us are pretty certain he spotted a delicious mango and rum drink being served below, and thought to himself, “That looks pretty damn good! I wouldn’t mind one of those myself.”

OK, now… how’s this for all the fucking bad planning in the world?

I totally forgot to pack a seventh cup.  

So Bruce left, aided by a very nervous looking security guy who grabbed him by the ankle and reeled him back in. Adding insult to injury, a few minutes later a fan handed him a can of Miller Lite. He took a sip, and poured the rest down his back.

Sunny Day
1 big glob of Mango Freeze
1 pretty hefty pour of rum
5 or 6 or 11 dashes of bitters or whatever

Flash blend with battery powered cocktail stirrer. Serve in paper cups. Garnish with stray grass clippings and that gritty debris that collects in the bottom of your daypack. Save a little for The Boss. Don’t forget the seventh cup.

Tuesday
Apr172012

No lime, no salt: Steve Olson on tequila & mezcal

Steve Olson calisthenically blew in and out of New Orleans yesterday amid Vesuvial thunderheads and torrential rains to present a talk on "The Magical Elixirs of Mexico." His 90-minute talk was packed —both house-wise, with scarcely a seat available at the Museum of the American Cocktail, and with detailed information about some of the 280 species of agave known, and the varied, arcane processes of making these distinctive distilled spirits.

The short version: the spirits industry in Mexico is incredibly old — very likely predating any known distillation in India or China. But it's also incredibly vibrant and new: some 42 different species of agave are used today in tequila and mezcal production, up from about 28 just a few years ago. And that's resulting in a whole new range of flavors as terroir — or the geography of taste, once the province of wine — continues its steady encroachment into the spirits world.

Olson — a noted spirits expert and one of the brains behind Viktor & Spoils, a new tequila bar in New York  — ran us through a marathon of varied tastes. We sampled some 10 different types of Mexican spirits, plus two cocktails showcasing how these might be deployed. (The biggest cup at every seat last night? The spit cup.)

The two most memorable samples of the night: The rough-edged, complexly smoky Del Maguey Single Village Santa Caterina Minas (from Oaxaca, and made in a crude ceramic and bamboo still), and the Don Julio 1942, a representative of a new class of tequila — the extra anjeo, aged for three or more years. Sipping one then the other was like bouncing down a rutted, rocky road whooping and hollering, then suddenly finding yourself quietly barrelling down a newly paved highway with the windows up. Both different. Both full of charm.

Olson also offered up a engagingly discursive history of the margarita/tequila daisy, which we enjoyed while sipping a drink called a Smoky Daisy, essentially a margarita with mezcal to add smoke. I'm sorry you couldn't be there. But here: make one up and pretend.

Smoky Daisy

1-1/2 oz Siete Leguas Blanco Tequila
1/4 oz Del Maguey Vida Mezcal
1/2 oz Grand Marnier
1 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz agave nectar

Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice, and shake vigorously. Strain into coupe (or serve over ice in rocks glass) and garnish with a lime wheel.

Sunday
Apr152012

A proper toast to the Titanic

Today is April 15, the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic following that unfortunate encounter with an iceberg in the North Atlantic. You perhaps saw something about this in your newspaper this morning. Or, if you're under the age of 35, on your Twitter feed. (Note: the Titanic was an actual ship. It actually sank, and 1,500 people actually died, and, no, Leonardo DiCaprio was not among them.)

i decided to mark the occasion by fishing out of my freezer a five-pound slab of iceberg ice, and hauling it in a small cooler to my favorite watering hole in New Orleans.

Yes, I know. Who among us has not absent-mindedly forgotten that we've stashed a five-pound slab of iceberg ice in the back freezer (note: it's behind the frozen broccoli florets). This I obtained from a guy in Alaska. In the past, I've had iceberg ice from Greenland. (Another note: I'll be serving Zacapa rum with iceberg ice from Greenland a month from yesterday — May 14 — at a seminar at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic in NYC.) But I digress. Anyway, about that iceberg ice: today is the day to use it.

I bicycled with my wee iceberg up to Cure. Fate was smiling, as one of my favorite bartenders — Rhiannon Enlil — was working tonight. If fate had been this cooperative a century ago, that ship would never have gone down, and Kate Winslet would never have debased herself with that embarrassingly vapid splayed-arm-thing on the ship's bow. 

I explained my mission to Rhiannon. She responded with alacrity and cunning, whipping up two memorial cocktails in short order. The first, the Starboard Side (named afther the side of the ship struck by the vile iceberg) included Bushmills for the shipyard, Pimm's for the crew, and a couple of dashes of Jerry Thomas Decanter Bitters because, well, it's an excellent and elegant bitters. Also, some smoked salt tincture for the briny deep. It was good, but it lacked a certain something — I wasn't getting any notes of the steerage passengers below deck playing fiddles and doing lively jigs.

Round two, however, had everything — the stately dining room with stuffed shirts and the freakishly happy Irishmen belowdecks. Rhiannon named it the Harland and Wolff, after the Belfast shipyard where the Titanic was built. The reccipe follows below and it features Bushmills plus Smith and Cross naval rum.

This is a wondrous tasty drink, made all the more excellent by being served on a slab of iceberg ice in a rocks glass. The ice looked like a miniature iceberg, all angular and unsettled, as if just briefly detained from its mission of roaming the seas and sinking ships. And it was filled with tiny bubbles — each bubble containing a bit of air entombed for 10,000 years or longer, much of that time held hostage beneath a glacier a mile thick. As a result, the oxygen was compressed, and as the ice melted in the glass the bubbles popped and crackled. Also, it reeked of mastodon (well, at least in my feverish mind. Jig dancing will do that to you).

Hail, Titanic! You taught us about hubris and human frailty. And hail, anonymous iceberg! You reminded us that prehistory can suddenly overtake the present, and do so without warning on a still and quiet night.

Harland and Wolff
1-1/2 oz Bushmills
1/2 oz Smith & Cross Navy Strenth Rum
3/4 oz Dolin Blanc vermouth
4 dashes smoked sea salt tincture (or substitue a small pinch of smoked sea salt)

Stir in mixing vessel (without nasty refrigerator ice), then pour over a jagged piece of pristine iceberg ice that calved from a 10,000-year-old glacier and then was plucked from the sea by a doughty fisherman. Either Alaskan or Greenland icebergs will do, although Greenland is preferred for reasons of historic authenticity.
 
Thursday
Dec152011

How to make a cocktail with gas station convenience store ingredients

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The idea: Simple. Four teams of three bartenders were dropped off at a store. They were given $100 to buy ingredients to make a drink. (Not including spirits, which were provided by Pernod-Ricard.) 

The catch: The store was a slightly skeevy convenience store attached to a gas station somewhere on upper Elysian Fields in New Orleans. In Streetcar Named Desire, you take Elysian Fields to Desire. In reality, not so much.

The venue: The teams convened in the back room at Molly's at the Market on Decatur St. This was a catered affair, with fried chicken from some joint. There were two big boxes of chicken. Not much was eaten. You could have run a small car for a week on the oil collected in those boxes.

The drama: At the store, Team White 'N Nerdy (Chris Hannah, Nick Detrich, Matt Rey) headed straight to the dairy case. Here they blew most of their budget on eggs — they bought all 15 dozen eggs so no other team could use them in their drinks. The fate of the unused eggs remains unclear.

The treachery: Michael Glassberg from Team Bitter As Hell and Too Much Baggage managed to swipe a dozen eggs from the erstwhile monopolists. White 'N Nerdy: strategic advantage denied.

The creativity: Pork rind garnishes. Rims encrusted with crushed wintergreen Lifesavers. Red Hot infusions in lieu of Angostura bitters. Louisiana Hot Sauce.

The Bad: Most of the drinks, not surprisingly. When I taste cocktails I mentally start at 100 and then deduct points for flaws. Here, it was more efficient to start at zero and begrudgingly bestow a few points. A drink involving a peppered mango and too much salt tasted a bit like an Epsom Salts foot bath, after the feet had been removed. I mean that in a good way. I did add five points for the garnish of red-pepper encrusted mango (gas stations have mangos?) which looked like an enraged Gulf shrimp.

The ugly: Team White 'N Nerdy made a drink called the Nod Noggin, which was a Becherovka-based drink along with whatnot that made it disturbingly opaque and brown. However, the team showed considerable creativity in crafting a drink that left foamy brown rings around the glass as it was consumed. I tip my hat to this sly homage to the gas station rest room. Also, once I made this connection, I couldn't finish the drink. Nor could those around me after I helpfully pointed out the similarities.

The good: Team Electric Crabs (Murf Reeves, Liam Deegan, and Michelle Lunza) made a drink consisting of Martell Cognac, Strawberry NesQuik, King Cobra Malt Liquor and Karo syrup. With a Graham Cracker rim. I took a sip, first making sure a spit cup was within reach. And the drink was... how can I put this... actually quite good. It was, in fact, remarkably balanced. You could taste each of the ingredients separately, and it came together in an unexpectedly interesting way. I would order another one. (Recipe below.) Electric Crabs took the prize from the judges. (Those sitting in judgement were Keith Marzalek, Chris and Laura McMillian, and Chris Patino.)

Oh, the humanity! This idea for Station Libations — held the evening of December 14 — came from a dark part of Rhiannon Enlil's shriveled, bitter heart. One can only hope more of her events fill the calendars of 2012.

After School Special

1.5 oz Martell Cognac
2 oz Strawberry NesQuik
1/2 oz King Cobra Premium Malt Liquor
1/2 oz Karo Syrup

Shake like a fiend with ice. Strain and serve.

Friday
Mar112011

“Three cocktails,” he said, acidly.

In this installment of “cocktails from the crypt,” we turn again to acid phosphate. (Briefly touched upon in this dispatch from 2009.)

And we do so again thanks to Darcy O’Neil and his relentless research. In the April issue of The Atlantic, I wrote about Darcy’s rediscovery of acid phosphate, and how a few enterprising bartenders are playing with this potent souring ingredient, lending new life to old drinks. Adding a touch of acid phosphate is more or less putting your finger on the scale — making sweet taste less sweet, and twisting other flavors around slightly. You might say it’s a form of cheating. But, hey, cheating is fun.

The space for the magazine column is tight, so there’s rarely room for cocktail recipes. And that always seems a bit churlish — I mean, don’t you want to try these? — so I've posted three of the recipes mentioned below.

Oh, yeah, you’ll probably need to obtain some acid phosphate. To order this and Darcy’s excellent book about soda fountains (available in print or as a pdf), visit his storefront: Extinct Chemical Company.

Uncle Morris
Bobby Heugel, co-owner of Anvil Bar & Refuge in Houston, came up with this nice creation, in which the acid phosphate knocks down the sweetness of honey while maintaining its rich flavor.

2 oz gin
1 oz honey syrup (3 Parts Honey; 1 Part Water)
.5 oz lime juice
1 tsp acid phosphate
1 dash celery bitters
1/2 medium Kaffir lime leaf
2 oz tonic

Shake all ingredients, except tonic water, with ice and fine strain into a 
Collins glass with cubed ice. Top with tonic water. Garnish with a lime
 wedge and pressed kaffir leaf.


Wet Grave
This is Darcy’s creation, which he came up with in advance of a presentation in New Orleans. (Wet Grave is a nickname for the city.)

1.25 oz Maker’s Mark Bourbon
.5 oz claret syrup
1 tsp dry vermouth
1 tsp acid phosphate
3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Stir over ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass.

Note: claret syrup is red wine (traditionally Bordeaux) mixed 1:1 with simple syrup.

Cherry Bourbon Phosphate
I’ve been playing around with phosphate and cherry, mostly because I'm mildly infatuated with the phrase “cherry phosphate.” And I love bourbon. As such, the future was easily foretold. This drink should be approached as a work in progress — it’s not quite there yet, but I’m encouraged by the direction it’s headed.

1.5 oz bourbon
.5 oz cherry juice
.25 oz simple syrup
1 tsp acid phosphate
1 or 2 dashes Jerry Thomas bitters
Soda water

Add first five ingredients in a mixing glass and stir with ice. Pour into collins glass and top with soda water and crushed ice. 

Thursday
Jan062011

The magical elixir that cures everything but excessive self-promotion

Several years ago a 22-year-old man was carried by friends into a French hospital at two o’clock in the morning. He was heavily intoxicated, and his communication skills had been reduced to random growling noises. The man was held overnight and the next day he awoke with a spectacularly large hangover, the centerpiece of which was a headache that grew more intolerable as the day went on.

Puzzled that the headache wasn't abating, doctors investigated further. They soon found that he wasn’t suffering from your standard-issue hangover — the man had, in fact, been unknowingly stabbed in the side of the head during a drunken bar brawl and a section of knife blade had broken off inside his brain. (Note: x-ray above is for entertainment purposes only, and does not depict anyone mentioned in this or future posts.)

The offending knife blade was surgically removed, and the man quickly recovered. The doctors later penned an account for Emergency Medicine Journal, summarizing the episode’s chief teaching point as this: “headache after intoxication can be due to unexpected causes.”

Well, OK. But for me the main teaching point was somewhat different. It's this: If you wake up after a night out and feel as if somebody stabbed you in the head with a knife, there’s now a medically documented chance that this has actually happened. Some mornings, I find this thought quite comforting, since a forgotten bar fight is somehow easier to comprehend than a deficit of willpower when faced with too many cocktails.

If, however, you discover that you don’t actually have a knife wound to the head, there are other paths to recovery. I’ve explored some of these in several venues recently. For instance, here’s a story on “the second elixir” that just came out in The Atlantic's January-February issue. Among the suggestions: wrap your head in cabbage leaves. Failing that, there’s always the bloody mary, the most tried and true hair-of-the-dog remedy. Here’s a bit of background I wrote on the drink’s history for Liquor.com last month, including a basic recipe that invites personal monogramming.  

Still need aid in getting up off the floor? I explored the restorative powers of early 19th cocktails in the January issue of Bon Appetit, with a nod to Peychaud’s bitters, which once advertised itself as “the most successful restorative and tonic known in cases of general debility.” (Another historic reference was inexplicably cut from the story: that Jerry Thomas once wrote of a cocktail called Burnt Brandy and Peach that “it is sometimes used as a cure for diarrhea.”)

The Bon Appetit story also includes two restorative recipes, one for Tad Carducci’s Tippling Bros. Magical Pain Extractor, and the other a variation on Ted Haigh’s variation of a Corpse Reviver #2.

Drinking. It makes you sick. It makes you better. Can anyone seriously deny that beverage alcohol is a miracle product? 

Tuesday
Mar022010

Aisha Sharpe on the big batch

It wasn’t a pretty image: Aisha Sharpe of Contemporary Cocktails was explaining how to make a lot of caipirinhas for a lot of people. “We used the bottom of one bucket to muddle limes and sugar in the bottom of another,” she said. Sharpe, along with her colleague Justin Noel, were speaking at the Museum of the American Cocktail last night on a topic that New Orleanians always pay attention to: how to serve large amounts of liquor to large groups. Call it, “Secrets of the Service Bar, Or How to Stay Fresh While Going Big.”

Sharpe suggested that home entertainers would do well to understand the differences between the front bar and the service bar. At the front bar, customers expect the bartender to make their drinks fresh and from scratch, one drink at a time, and are willing to wait. But those sitting at tables — where there’s little diversion and where time moves slower — customers want their drinks now. That’s where the service bar goes into action, cranking cocktails out in volume and with speed. Those throwing parties at home who don’t want to spend all night making drinks one at a time for guests can learn a lot from this.

Question is, can you do size and speed while still keeping drinks fresh? Short answer: yes. It’s simple logistics. Pre-muddling lime slices and sugar and lining them up in 50 rocks glasses is one way. Keeping a tub of pre-made limes and sugar is another — as long as they’re properly pre-muddled to coax the flavor out of the rinds. (The bucket-on-bucket action Sharpe described was in the context of another of bit of advice: be ready to troubleshoot when dealing with large groups. “Be prepared for everything and assume nothing.”)

Another possible approach: involve the customer by setting up a do-it-yourself system, and recruit them to do the muddling. The end result is the same: speed and quantity without having to sacrifice quality.

Another bit of advice for party-throwers: pre-batch only a part of your cocktail, and then adapt this to provide variety. For instance, prep fresh lemon juice mixed with gin. Then add mint syrup and a mint garnish for a Southside cocktail. Or champagne and simple syrup for a French 75. Or club soda and simple syrup for a Tom Collins. You can also opt to get fancier with other syrups, like a five-spice syrup, which Sharpe used last night for a layered and interesting daiquiri. Minimum work, maximum selection.

My favorite drink of the night was the first served: a bourbon punch (punches are another easy crowd solution — properly presented, a punch is festive and has curiously magnetic properties). If you’re expecting to serve 12 drinks, multiply the recipe below by 12 — although Sharpe’s advice is to taste, taste, taste as you’re going along, and adjust accordingly. Some ingredients, like bitters or ginger juice, tend to intensify and dominate when batched, so go easy at the outset.

Bourbon Punch
(per portion)

1 oz Maker’s Mark
.5 oz Navan
1 oz apple cider
.25 oz maple syrup
.25 oz lemon juice
1/2 barspoon ginger juice
2 dashes angostura bitters

Garnish: pomegranate seeds and grated nutmeg. Serve in bowl with ice block.

Monday
Feb012010

Cooper Brothers make nice, in a glass 

Tad Carducci did a guest turn behind the stick at Cure in New Orleans last night in advance of his presentation at the Museum of the American Cocktail this evening. Carducci is the guy behind Apo in Philadelphia, and through his Tippling Brothers bar consultancy (with Paul Tanguay) is making his mark among drinkers in Chicago and New York.

Among the many excellent drinks he mixed up last night was what might be the ultimate bar insider cocktail, which he called the Tres Coops. It’s a frothy mezcal-based cocktail, with lots of layers and a handful of little secret doors that open as you sip, each ushering in a little surprise. Carducci created it for the Chicago branch of Mercadito, the hip, upscale Mexican-fare chain based in New York, and which is now expanding to Miami. (It’s pioneered what one writer has called “sex-mex” cuisine, which sounds pretty cool but, seriously, what the hell does that mean?)

What makes Tres Coops so insiderish? Because it’s made with all three products from the famously fractious Cooper brothers: Rob (who’s behind St. Germain), John (Domaine de Canton), and Ron (Del Maguey mezcals). Eric Felten suggested a Cooper Brothers cocktail about a year ago with St. Germain and Canton, but Tres Coops ups the ante, adding one of Ron Cooper’s superb mezcals to the mix. At long last, we learn the answer to the question, can’t we all just get along?

Why, yes, we can. 

Here’s the recipe from the Del Maguey website:

Tres Coops
1 oz. Chichicapa mezcal
.5 oz. Averna Amaro
.5 oz. St. Germain
.5 oz. Domaine de Canton
.75 oz. fresh lime
.25 oz. fresh egg white
Pinch of freshly ground chile powder. (Guajillo recommended.)

Shake all ingredients very vigorously. Strain into chilled "coupe", of course. Twist a fat swath of grapefruit peel over the top.

Tuesday
Jan122010

Bridget Albert highlights shrub, a colonial favorite

In the pre-electricity, pre-refrigerator, put-potatoes-and-cabbage-in-the-basement, salt-the-meat-and-stick-it-in-a-cask days — we’re talking 18th and early 19th century here — it required considerable ingenuity to keep the taste of the summer season alive through the bleak months of winter. I wrote about one approach in my history of rum — how colonials used to capture the flavor of seasonal fruits and berries in a “shrub,” which was basically an infusion preserved with vinegar. Doled out sparingly during the cold months, a glass of shrub could be enlivened with a dollop of brandy or rum. A sip would bring to mind fond memories of raspberries, strawberries, blueberries or other small heroes of the warm weather months.

I also wrote in the book that “vinegar-based cocktails may not be the trend of the moment.” I possibly spoke too soon.

Last week at the Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans, author and mixologist Bridget Albert gave a talk on how to use the fresh flavors of the summer throughout the year. One of the superb drinks she served was a pisco shrub, a rich, complicated concoction with a Christmasy tang. And not even a hint of vinegar.

Albert, who’s the author of Market Fresh Mixology, called shrub “kind of like a souped-up salad dressing,” which I assure you is less appealing sounding than tasting. She said shrubs lent themselves to just about any sort of fruit — she leaned toward stone fruits — and you could be equally creative with additonal spices. Her pisco drink used a cherry shrub, which she made with this recipe:

Cherry  shrub
1 c. white sugar
1 c. water
3 pints fresh cherries
2 c. white vinegar
spices (be creative; Albert used allspice in her cherry shrub.)

Mix everything in a saucepan, then boil until the sugar is dissolved. Let simmer for 20 minutes. Let cool and steep overnight. Strain into sterile glass jars.

The flavor is intense and concentrated — a couple of jars will last a while. Dole it out a little at a time to spark up your winter drinks. Here’s Albert’s great idea:

Pisco Shrub
1.5 oz Pisco
3/4 oz cherry shrub (use any kind of fruit shrub)
juice of one lime
ginger ale

Add first three ingredients to tall glass with ice. Top off with ginger ale.