(glass provided by the fine folks over at Cocktail Vibe)
A comforting red hue fills my glass. Aromas of raspberry, ginger, and vinegar waft into the air. It’s not cool enough yet for gins and whiskeys to start taking the place of rums and juices, but tiki season is fading. For some reason this drink reminds me of both Christmas and the summer sun. The potion isn’t too complex or pretentious, yet it’s one of my favorites of the year.
Shrub hails from colonial times where the ability to preserve food was often it’s principal attribute. The mixture contains fruit, vinegar, sugar, and often spices which both keep the fruit and provided a phenomenal resource: a wonderful complement to spirits, specifically rum. I’ve tried this with probably 15 different rums, and I’m continually amazed at the tastiness and variation with each iteration.
I was introduced to this wonderful cocktail by Eric Felten, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal. To my surprise, he knew of Kaiser Penguin and asked his publisher if they would send me a review copy of his upcoming book, How’s Your Drink. I’m about halfway done, and it’s already secured a prominent place on my bookshelf. Each page offers a new story to share with my guests, and it’s amazing to see my friends’ eyes light up at an interesting tale of spirit and drink. So far I’ve laughed, grinned, and more importantly, mixed up a hell of a lot of cocktails due to this book.
There is something particular about the shrub recipe that caught my attention, however. In addition to his recipe (see below), he recommended buying the shrub, which is something you know I shun here at Kaiser Penguin. According to Eric, making your own shrub is a waste of time when such good shrub is made by Tait Farm in Pennsylvania. Wait … that’s where I buy my Christmas trees! No more than 10 minutes from my small abode, Tait Farm is nestled on the side of the only eastern road out of State College. I have many good memories of dragging my friends around the tree farm for hours in the freezing cold looking for the perfect tree to cut down and any excuse to return brings me joy.
Their small, packed shop has a candy-colored wall filled with bottles of various syrups, sauces, and jellies. I honed in on the shrub and struggled for a second to find the raspberry among the many flavors. There were strawberry, cranberry, cherry, ginger, and raspberry. I greedily grabbed the last bottle of raspberry and sought out Kim Tait, the owner of the farm. It didn’t take long to find her, and I was met with a kind smile and bright eyes. I dug out my copy of Eric’s book and showed her the passage where they were mentioned. Excited, I asked her about the recipe. “No, ours is a bit different. We first make a raspberry vinegar before finishing the syrup.” All of the fruit is grown on the farm (which you can actually work at on Friday’s in exchange for free produce).
Kim expressed an interest in working with me and another local bartender to create some new drinks with her shrubs and to spread the word out about how damn tasty they are. I absolutely must echo Eric’s sentiments and suggest you put in an order. I am continually amazed at how unique and memorable the rum shrub is every time I mix one up.
My four favorite rums to mix in a shrub so far have been Coruba, Gosling’s, Bacardi 8, and Brugal Anejo. Lemon Hart 151 is delicious, but intense. The vinegar fills the role of citrus and balances the rum shrub so effectively, you’d swear there was witch magic afoot.
Raspberry Rum Shrub
- 2 – 2 1/2oz rum
- 1oz raspberry shrub
- 4oz ginger beer (ginger ale works in a pinch)
Build with ice in a fun mug and stir.
Source: How’s Your Drink?, Eric Felten
- 1c water
- 1c sugar
- 2 pints raspberries
- 2c white wine vinegar
Whisk water and sugar together to a boil. Reduce heat and add raspberries, stirring for 10 min. Add vinegar and boil for 2 min. Strain, cool, bottle.
Share Your Knowledge
Know more about the history of shrub? Had something similar? Ordered from the farm and want to report? Comment!