Jalapeño Shrub Cocktail

ShrubDMProposed by: David

Reviewed by: Jonathan

When Jonathan and I revived this project, we decided on two types of entries—re-posts and new posts. I did not count on my dim memory. In my mind, this cocktail recipe employing a shrub was supposed to be a new post. All week, however, I’ve been fighting a sense of deja écrit, and it turns out I was right.

Sigh. I’m not going to go through the amusing and interesting facts about shrubs that my earlier self mastered and forgot mastering. The highlights are as follows:

  1. A shrub is a mixture of fruit juice, spices, and vinegar.
  2. Shrub is from the Arabic sharāb, which means “to drink,” and also gives us “sherbet” and “syrup” as metathetic variants, though I no longer can recall what metathetic variants are.
  3. Around since at least the 15th century, shrubs include vinegar as a way of preserving fruit juices, and people once saw them as medicinal.
  4. Some people just add shrubs to club soda, no alcohol.
  5. Shrubs are hip.

I think I might have saved 350 words there.

Jonathan and I had a text exchange earlier this week, though, that did make me see shrubs in a new light. He reminded me that some nutritionists describe vinegar as “jogging in a jug” because it apparently activates an enzyme called AMPK that encourages the body to burn fat, particularly the sort of fat that surrounds organs as you grow older. Before you go out to buy a gallon of apple cider vinegar, I should also say that Jonathan thinks the sugar in a shrub might nullify any benefit the vinegar might offer… and then there’s the gin.

Anyway, the best reason for making a shrub—or drinking vinegar, for that matter—is because you like the taste. Not everyone will. The sweet and sour is a little strange, and, as the particular recipe we tried included jalapeño and basil, it may seem even stranger. It’s not my job to write the review this week, so I’ll keep my position on shrubs to myself for now. I will say that adding shrubs creates cocktails just as identifiable and distinctive as ones that feature eggs… though very different… if that makes any sense.

Jalapeño Shrub Cocktail:

For the shrub…

  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large jalapeños, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • .25 cup basil leaves
  • .25 teaspoon coriander powder

For the cocktail

  • 1 ounce shrub
  • 1.5 ounces gin
  • 2 ounces soda
  • Lime for garnish (though you could use jalapeño, of course)

Making this shrub is a little complicated, so read to the end to get a sense of the whole process. FIRST you create a mash with the fruit, the jalapeños and sugar and leave that for 48 hours. At the same time, SEPARATELY, combine the other ingredients. THEN, after the 48 hours, strain both the fruit mixture and the vinegar mixture and combine them.

The cocktail recipe itself says to combine the ingredients in a glass with ice, but you might notice from my photo above that instead I put everything (except the soda!) in a shaker and added the soda last.

And Here’s Jonathan’s Review:

ShrubJM

The first time we tried a cocktail using a shrub in 2015, I disparaged “Jogging in a Jug.” That drinking vinegar (same as a shrub) was popular years ago but then disappeared after the makers were accused of making false health claims. Now research shows there are benefits from ingesting vinegar that may include increased metabolism, blood sugar improvements, heart health, and maybe even skin health.

I recently read How Not to Diet by Dr. Michael Greger. That book is a thorough review of nutritional studies and vinegar is among the items for which he finds evidence of tangible benefits. I need to be quick to add that sugar and alcohol are not on his beneficial list although capsaicin the chemical compound found in hot peppers is. Capsaicin is noted for activating brown fat. Since this is a drink blog, I will simply say that is a good thing.

My version of this cocktail included a strawberry shrub, lime juice, and an American Dry gin, Conniption, which is made in Durham, North Carolina. The shrub itself was made from the instructions in David’s recommended recipe with local strawberries instead of blueberries. The coriander and basil did not come through, but the jalapeño was very present. In fact, that background mild spice and the subtly infused gin were the highlights of the drink. I thought going in that tequila or mezcal would be a better choice of spirit, but I can’t see how either would complement the shrub better than the Conniption.

Jonathan’s take: Who knew that a vinegar based cocktail could be so good – and good for you too!

David’s take: I generally like shrub cocktails and frequently order then when I’m out… I just wonder about this one, which with the shrub… and basil… and jalapeño… and gin isn’t just a little TOO busy.

Our Re-take Next Time (proposed by David): In my proposals, I hesitate to insist Jonathan go out and buy a spirit long gone, but, nonetheless, I’d like to revisit the Amazonia, which features cachaça AND sparkling wine. A spirit that has become one of my favorites, cachaça lends every cocktail a tropical feel for me, and when is sparkling wine ever a bad idea?

Razzle Dazzle

RazzleJmProposed By: Jonathan

Reviewed By: David

There is a grumpy old man living in my house. Children who ride their skateboards or bikes without helmets nearby know him as the man who asks them if their brains are valuable. He is the guy who screams at commentators on television about their grasp of the startlingly obvious. Shoot, it was only a few minutes ago that he went out and yelled at the deer for eating day lilies. I am trying really hard to be more positive but I am that old man and those are small examples compared to my most common areas of contempt.

A typical commute is punctuated with outbursts. Charlotte is surely not the only town where red lights are treated as suggestions but it could be one of the worst. It is a rare day when I don’t scream, to myself in the car of course, that just because you are late or lazy doesn’t mean we have to die. Folks who fly by on the main road near our neighborhood are greeted with 3 fingers on one hand and 5 on the other to remind them it is a 35 mile an hour speed limit. Many of them signal that they are only going one mile an hour over that. At least that is what I assume that finger means.

Fortunately my wife does much of the shopping. The nearest grocery to us is located in an affluent area and most of the shoppers are either residing in their own private Idaho or just don’t care about other people. I am working hard on that positivity so last weekend when we were there I was practicing Zen and the art of not committing murder. While I was silent and ignored my fellow shoppers, my wife was the one who stated out loud, in a much more cogent a way than I would have, that we had stumbled into an entire store full of people who were grocery shopping for the very first time in their lives.

The Internet is another regular source of frustration. Don’t put proper contact info, or worse don’t reply to the contact form you do put there, and it is doubtful I will ever do business with you. A slide show that won’t load instead of a simple list? Return arrow guaranteed. Don’t even get me started on sites that just don’t work – yes si.com I mean you.

Cocktails sites are among the worst. Maybe it is a law somewhere but who are they kidding by asking users to input their date of birth? A 13 year old who inexplicably wants to know how to make a Rob Roy takes about 10 seconds to supply any date that makes them 60. Some even ask what country you are accessing the site from. I would have to give up my grumpy card if I didn’t follow the rule that if the United States is at the bottom of your drop down list your site is banished to Siberia.

The link to the Razzle Dazzle violated all of this and whole bunch of grump more. The site includes the dreaded birthday input. That would be passable if I had remembered the recipe or written it down but I did not. Each time I accessed I swore it was the last time I would have a birthday. Added to that insult was a recipe that included parts rather than exact amounts. I cook and mix drinks enough that I would be fine with that but these proportions made no sense. Five parts vodka to four parts other liquid? First there is no base measurement that works with that and second that is a lot o’ vodka.

I won’t write out the recipe they supplied and will give what I used instead:

2 ounces vodka
2 ounces cranberry juice
1 ounce fresh lime juice
8 or more blueberries
8 or more mint leaves

Muddle mint, blueberries, lime and cranberry juice. Add vodka and ice, shake and strain over fresh ice. Garnish with blueberry and mint leaf. It makes a beautiful if unsatisfying drink.

Here’s David’s Review:

DazzleDmI go to bars pretty much never, but with this drink I’ve been imagining sidling up the bar and drawling, “Give me the Razzle Dazzle.” Who knows what I’d get back—perhaps the bartender would break into tap dance and song or flash me some jazz hands…. or maybe deliver a deft and surprising punch to my nose.

Knowing the name of a drink rarely helps you with what’s in it. If I walked the streets of Chicago asking passers-by what’s in a Razzle Dazzle cocktail, I’m sure I’d get as many strange guesses as one of those Thanksgiving cookbooks first grade teachers assign their classes, the ones filled with surreal recipes co-authored by Dr. Frankenstein.

No Chicagoan, I bet, would say cranberry juice. There’s little that’s razzle-y or dazzle-y about cranberry juice, and in this concoction you might have trouble identifying the ingredient. Nor, if you told them about the cranberry juice, would they say “mint” because when is that a typical pairing? Then lime (because cranberry juice plus mint cry “lime”?) A passer-by might take the hint in the word “razzle” and say “raspberries,” but that, naturally, would be wrong, This drink contains blueberries… of course.

Maybe Dr. Frankenstein coauthored this recipe after all.

“Is this confluence of unlikely ingredients mellifluous?” you ask (well, maybe not in those exact words). I’m afraid the answer, for me, is a shrug. As photos convey, the Razzle Dazzle is beautiful, and the disparate flavors do, surprisingly, go together. But I’m not a vodka fan—it adds little or nothing. Plus, even if you switch out the vodka for gin or tequila, it involves muddling—which I never do without grumbling “This had better be good”—and leaves millions of blueberry seeds to sediment the drink and mint pulp to clog the shaker.

To be fair, my wife loved this drink. She may ask for another next weekend, but, unless we happen to have cranberry juice, mint, and blueberries handy, I will not ask for another. I love the name Razzle Dazzle (Razzledazzle Marshall would be a great name for a grandchild), but, as the name of a cocktail, Razzle Dazzle is a awful lot to live up to.

David’s Take: Perfectly palatable… not that memorable

Jonathan’s take: Maybe I have work to do on the positive attitude.

Next Time (Proposed By David):

Having crawled over the finish line of the school year, I’m ready for summer ahead. That means it’s gin and tonic season for me, and I thought about proposing each of us make the perfect G&T next time. But that’s too simple, right? So, instead, I’m proposing we each create a gin and tonic variation. I found some suggestions, but they are only suggestions. Each of us will add a little something of our own Gin and Tonics in a (likely misguided) attempt to improve the classic… and get summer going at last.