Flavored vinegars can spice up drinks, shrubs

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Gourmet specialty store vomFASS, which recently celebrated its one year anniversary, stocks a number of vinears that are a perfect alternative to citrus juices in holiday cocktails.

Published: Tuesday, December 9, 2014

It’s never been such a sweet time to be sour.

With last month’s opening of Cape Fear Spice Merchants at 20 Market St. and the one-year anniversary celebration at vomFASS in the Independence Mall over the weekend, the Port City practically swims in infused and otherwise flavored vinegars. With forerunner Taste the Olive in The Forum shopping center on Military Cutoff Road and The Olive Shoppe in the Cotton Exchangedowntown, there’s simply no excuse for a bottle of boring old balsamic on the table.

But all that acid is useful for a lot more than salad dressings. With a history dating back more than 500 years, the vinegar-based family of beverages known as “shrubs” has never been more interesting.

In a bar setting, this most often means an acidulated syrup that’s been given a chance to mingle with fresh fruits and maybe a few interesting spices before blending with hard spirits. Common as a way of preserving the essence of ripe summer berries in the days before refrigeration, the technique fell from favor until recent years, enjoying resurgence with the craft cocktail revival.

It doesn’t hurt that the above-mentioned vendors stock varieties melded with exotic flavors like quince, chocolate and lavender among other aromatics. Partnered with syrups based on flavors ranging from rhubarb to rooibos, the possibilities for a unique sip are nearly endless.

Of course, you don’t have to stock up on pricey imported vinegars to enjoy the latest trends in mixology. Infusing your own is easy enough to do, and can even take advantage of produce found on a stroll through the neighborhood.

Wilmington blogger Lindsay Kastner of Please Pass the Peas (www.PleasePassThePeas.com) recently transformed an illicitly obtained armful of deep purple prickly pear cactus fruit – possibly still clinging to area plants if you know where to look – into a shrub that’s intended to be equally enjoyable sans spirits. Based on everyday apple cider vinegar, her sipper is both easy to re-create and a resourceful way to use a flavorful fruit that routinely goes to waste.

If you’d rather skip the heavy lifting, fear not. A splash or two of flavored vinegar works just as well in a fizz or other light beverage. Swing by vomFASS and chat with owners Kim and Dan Malutich for pointers on re-creating drinks like this non-alcoholic refresher that can easily be punched up with a jigger of your favorite liquor.

Basic shrub

1 1/2 cups water

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup sugar (honey, agave or other sweeteners may be substituted)

3 cups of fruit, roughly chopped

1/2 cup vinegar of choice

In a large saucepan, bring the water, salt and sugar to a boil, stirring until dissolved. Remove from heat then add fruit, cover and cool. Stir in vinegar, and refrigerate overnight. Strain liquid and store in a glass jar. Mix shrub and desired spirit in equal parts, diluting with water or seltzer to taste before serving on ice.

Apple Raspberry Quince Fizz

8 oz. seltzer

1 tsp vomFASS Apple Balsamic Star vinegar

1 tsp vomFASS Forest Raspberry Balsamic Star vinegar

1/2 tsp vomFASS Quince Balsamic Vinegar

Mix all ingredients together. For fizzier drinks, make sure seltzer is chilled before opening and pour in other ingredients first before seltzer to promote even mixing without stirring.

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