A toast to good times: Here’s how to create syrups for exotic cocktails at home
Indians until the recent past have been globetrotting and in constant pursuit of great memorable experiences. This trend has helped in the evolution of the Indian Bar Story. But now that people prefer to stay at home instead of heading to their favourite waterholes, the drinking culture like work has moved home.
Make cocktails at home with the right syrups
Necessity is the mother of all invention. Home bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts have been experimenting with new liquids and have become more creative over the last few months. They have also been gravitating towards luxe spirits since they are not paying a premium in bars.
For the first time in decades, connoisseurs have been talking about the humble highballs such as the Johnnie Ginger along with variations of Smirnoff and Soda.
Fewer things are as pleasurable and relaxing as enjoying a delicious cocktail made at home. Even while entertaining at home, the same rules apply for drinks as they do for the food you serve. They must be impressive, yet easy to prepare so that you can maximise your time with guests.
Cocktails have greatly evolved over the past decades and has seen a lot of creativity, flair and technique - one of them being the use of seasonal pre-made syrups and shrubs that one could make at home.
What are shrubs?
A ‘Shrub’ is a concentrated syrup that integrates fruit, sugar, and vinegar. The result is a mixer that’s tart, sweet and stimulates the appetite while quenching thirst.
It evolved in the early times before refrigeration and vinegar was used to preserve fruits. A few years ago, bar professionals and cocktail enthusiasts rediscovered the benefits of shrubs to enhance the flavour of cocktails and rave about their digestive benefits. Using shrubs is a cost-effective method to add complexity and zing to your cocktails. They are very easy to make at home and can be preserved for a few months.
Make your own cocktails at home
A variety of fruits can be used to make cocktails
The best way to experience shrubs is to experiment with them. The process is simple and a lot like homemade infusions or syrups with endless flavour possibilities.
The first step involves choosing an ingredient from each of the four categories:
Sugar: Granulated/Demerara/Brown Sugar
Vinegar: Balsamic, red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar or white vinegar. The acids in vinegar act as a preserving agent, so shrubs are a delicious way to enjoy seasonal fruit juices year-round.
Fruit: Berries are the favourite, but fruits like apples, peaches, pears, plums can be used.
Flavouring: Herbs and spices are options and add dimension to your shrubs. Cinnamon, Fennel, Rosemary are a few options.
Make shrubs the right way
The cold process of making a shrub takes longer but the fruit flavour remains fresher and purer. A beginner’s recipe involves macerating the sugar, fruit and vinegar in equal ratios for 3-4 days until the fruit breaks down and you end up with a thick syrup.
Then strain out the fruit solids and preserve it in a jar. Over the days that follow, the overly sour flavour mellows, and you end up with a sweet and tangy ingredient.
Store these concentrated syrups preferably in glass jars with lids in a refrigerator. These syrups can last for a long time because the natural fermentation is stopped by the preservative effect of the vinegar and sugar.
The ideal time period is 3 -6 months but some can last for a lot longer. If you notice any bubbles or foaming when opening the bottle, then it’s time to discard and make a fresh batch.
Mix in spirits
Shrubs or syrups can be used in non-alcoholic drinks and mocktails. They can be topped with club soda, ginger ale or even water. At home, we can reach for shrubs when we don’t feel like squeezing a bunch of limes and making a big mess.
When deciding what to mix a shrub with, keep the fruit flavour in mind. Pineapples and spices work well with rum but clashes with gin. Conversely, grapefruit goes well with gin and vodka but is tough to pair with whisky.
Lime goes well with a variety of spirits. Shrubs crafted with apples, peaches and plums are perfect for whisky and brown spirits.
While mixing in home cocktails try out the approximate ratios between a spirit, shrub, adding liqueur/ vermouth and bitters to give it balance.
Recipes for shrubs and cocktails
Here are two simple shrub recipes you can try at home and how you could use them to create simple cocktails.
Apple and Cinnamon Shrub
400 grams (2 cups) grated red apples
400 grams (2 cups) brown sugar
10 grams - cinnamon stick
400ml (2 cups) white balsamic vinegar
• In a large mason jar, drop in the grated apples and sugar.
• Gently muddle to release the juice from the apples
• Add white vinegar and Cinnamon sticks
• Attach jar cover tightly and shake vigorously.
• Store in a refrigerator for 4 days. Shake the jar every day for 2 minutes
• Remove from refrigerator and strain juice into a large bowl, then squeeze remaining juice out of apples using a sieve.
• Pour the juice into a glass container and refrigerate. Will last for up to 6 months if stored properly in the refrigerator.
• 60 ml Johnnie Walker Red Label
• 60 ml apple and cinnamon shrub
• 2 dashes of aromatic bitters (optional)
• 120 ml Soda
• Take a tall glass
• Pour in 60 ml of apple and cinnamon shrub
• Two dashes of aromatic bitters
• Pour in 60 ml of Johnnie Walker Red Label
• Drop in 8-10 cubes of Ice
• Top up with soda
• Garnish with sliced apples
Stir and enjoy!
Orange and Ginger Shrub
• 400 grams (2 cups) Thinly sliced fresh ginger
• 4 Large Malta oranges
• 400 grams (2 cups) white granulated sugar
• 400ml (2 cups) Apple Cider Vinegar
• 120 ml fresh lime juice
• Water as needed
• In a large mason jar, drop in the ginger slices and muddle until the juices are released.
• Peel the oranges; scrape away the pith; divide into segments and add it to the mason jar and muddle again
• Pour in the lime juice, sugar and vinegar.
• Close the lid and shake vigorously for 2 minutes
• Leave in a cool place and shake once every day for 8 days
• Strain the mixture into a bowl using a sieve to remove the solids
• Pour the juice into a glass container and refrigerate.
• Keeps for about 4 months.
• 60 ml Smirnoff Orange / Smirnoff vodka
• 60 ml orange and ginger shrub
• 10 ml sugar syrup
• Top with soda
• Pour 60 ml of orange and ginger shrub in a tall glass
• Pour in 10 ml of sugar syrup
• Pour in 60 ml of Smirnoff vodka
• Drop in 8-10 cubes of ice
• Top with soda
• Garnish with an orange slice
(Images credit: Shutterstock, Jacob Alexander)
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)