Vinegars have long been consumed for a powerful boost to both flavor and fitness, from Romans using date vinegar to ensure water potability to colonial Americans mixing sweetened, infused vinegars with soda and spirits. These days, health nuts are taking shots of the apple cider variety to aid digestion and boost heart health. And the trend has many of the city’s best bartenders spiking specialty cocktails with drinking vinegars.
These shrubs, a term rooted in the Arabic word sharab for a drink or syrup, are made by macerating fruit with sugar and vinegar. The tart tonics, often subbed for citrus in cocktails, have made their way into hip bars such as Proof and Minero. Just as with wine, McCrady’s bartender Bethany Kocak tries to “match cocktails to the weight and the delicacy of food.” She recently featured a blueberry-birch vinegar that the kitchen originally produced for a beef dish.
If you prefer to play with a premade pucker at home, a handful of local companies are also rolling out bottled drinking vinegars. Beverage industry veterans Jacob and Samantha Fuhr introduced Jam Beverage Co. (jambeverageco.com) earlier this year, using the platform to celebrate local produce, such as strawberries handpicked from John’s Island’s Bugby Plantation. The couple bottles the delicious offerings hot, a technique that breaks down some of the naturally occurring sugars in the vinegars and creates a highly mixable product. With fresh flavors like pineapple, grapefruit, peach, and ginger, the Jam Beverage Co. crop invites experimentation—look for the vinegars at area restaurants and specialty shops, including goat.sheep.cow and Caviar & Bananas.
Boris Van Dyck of Icebox Bar Services has also developed a line of tasty vinegars, opting for a cold-press process, which yields intensely flavored syrup-style shrubs. His Badger Drinking Vinegar brand (www.badgerdrinkingvinegar.com) can be found at The Cocktail Club and The Macintosh, among other bars. Before wrinkling your nose at the notion of sipping sour liquids, give the centuries-old standard of drinking vinegars a fresh shot.