For this month’s challenge I would like to take us back to the humble beginnings of the cocktail bar, the days when bartenders didn’t have the luxury of daily deliveries of ingredients from around the world. In these times bartenders would have been uncertain when they would again have the privilege to work with special ingredients so would naturally try to make the most of them. As a result of this restrictive access to many ingredients we today take for granted many methods used in home kitchens for years began to find their ways in to bars. Such methods of preservation such as syrups and preserves have been staple ingredients behind the bar ever since, while others such as shrubs and sherbets were relatively short lived.
The aim of the challenge is to go back to the days of the preserve, pick an ingredient, seasonal or not and treat it as if you won’t be seeing it again for quite some time. Syrups, sorbets, jam, shrubs and the like are all fair game, anything that will preserve the integral character of your favourite ingredient.
For this theme I’ve decided to go with a shrub, I had a varying of success a year or two ago, after reading Michael Dietsch blog post on shrubs. With midnight rapidly encroaching (and there’s already a wealth on the topic all over the internet) I’m not going to go into any detail on the history of the shrub. The flavours I’ve chosen to match with a rather nice bottle of Don Julio Anejo I had In the flat. I’ve served this in a vinegar bottle, due to the addition of white wine vinegar in the shrub, but to also offer the guest a touch of theatre to the drink. I’ve named this drink after a region of Belgium, Lambeek, a region most likely the origin of lambic beers. For anyone who has never had this type of beer, I suggest you hunt one down (try an offering from the Cantillon Brewery), sit back and enjoy. The name will then make sense!
50ml Don Julio Anejo
20ml Orange, Chilli, and Coriander shrub
15ml fresh lime juice
5ml Fernet Branca
40ml Ginger beer
Shake first 4 ingredients with ice and strain into a vinegar bottle, top with ginger beer. Serve with a rocks glass with ice, garnished with some fresh coriander
Orange, chilli and coriander shrub
1 chilli, chopped
Handful of coriander, chopped
Peel of half an orange
Muddle ingredients with 150ml volume of sugar and let infuse for 2 hours. Add the juice of the orange and any necessary water to give 150ml of liquid (in other words a syrup 1:1), gently heat to dissolve the sugar and cool. Add 50ml of cider vinegar, stir, strain, and bottle. Job done. I use slightly less vinegar than most recipes on the internet due to the fact that I’m really not a huge fan of the stuff, but used in small quantities it really does give mixed drinks a lovely sour and refreshing touch.