Forget Prohibition-era revivals. They’re so early-2000s. Lately, bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts have taken to reaching even further back – way, way back – in their seemingly never-ending search for discarded gems. Sometimes that enterprise is vainglorious, prizing the esoteric for esoteric’s sake. What, you’ve never sipped a cocktail made with a Franciscan monk’s tears? For shame.
Other times, though, the revival is more grounded, unearthing common sense and clever preparations that should never have been lost. Take the shrub, for example. It’s a vinegar-laced drink base that originated over 500 years ago, as a method for giving seasonal produce legs far past the growing season. To wit, the lovely Gillian White of Cook & Brown created an herbal berry shrub for us, which evokes the greener pastures that were – and that will be again, soon. A note about nomenclature: The “shrub” itself is virgin for mixing into any type of libation... with or without booze. This being a probooze space, you can guess which we embraced.
Blackberry, Raspberry and Thyme Shrub
A shrub takes time and effort, but the investment rewards in taste and lasting power. Plus, it’s virtually idiot-proof and endlessly versatile. “Once you test the waters with one combination,” Gillian says, “you can have a lot of fun experimenting with the produce, herbs, types of sugar and types of vinegars.”
• 1 cup raspberries
• 1 cup blackberries
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 cup apple cider vinegar
• 7-10 thyme sprigs (depending on how herbaceous you would like your shrub)
Combine berries and sugar in a bowl, and muddle until no visible sugar remains. Macerate in refrigerator overnight or up to one day. In a second bowl, mix thyme with vinegar, and refrigerate to bloom.
After steeping of both is complete, line a mesh strainer with cheesecloth and strain each into the same container. Strain mixture again if seeds or solids linger.
Pour shrub into clean jar. Shake to incorporate. Refrigerate and use within 5-7 days.
A Gin & Tonic with house-made shrub
Gin is a spring and summer staple, and is a natural match for Gillian’s berry-thyme shrub.
• 1 1⁄2 oz Plymouth gin
• 1⁄2 oz shrub
• Tonic water
Mix the gin and shrub in a tall glass with ice, and top with tonic. Stir to blend.
Gillian recommends adding a little simple syrup for those who like drinks on the sweeter side. Purists, however, will be blown away by how complex a two-ingredient cocktail can be.
• 2 oz gin
• 1 1⁄2 oz shrub
Combine in a tumbler with ice, shake, strain into a coupe – and sip.
Cook & Brown Public House
959 Hope Street