Apple Cinnamon Shrub recipe
Shrubs are old-fashioned sweet-and-sour drinks made tart with vinegar. They haven’t been in fashion since probably the 1800s, but they’re back big-time as a popular base for craft cocktails. After the Great Martini Revival of the 1990s went off the rails and every sweet vodka cocktail became an overpriced something-tini, bartenders and distillers were looking for something interesting to do. In jurisdictions where such things are legal, i.e., not Ontario, they began researching and recreating 19th-century liqueurs such as absinthe, making their own bitters, infusing liquor with fruits and vegetables, and generally paying more attention to cocktail ingredients. And so, the shrub is also back.
A basic shrub recipe can be made with many fruits, often soft berries, but here I’ve used apples. This year marks the 200th anniversary of something Ontarians should be rightly proud of: the discovery of the McIntosh apple. It’s easily my favourite variety, and this year’s crop is just coming into my grocery store.
Drink shrubs on their own, or use to make your own signature cocktail. Vodka and rum work well in them, and mixed with beer they make a crisp, tart shandy. But they’re not to everyone’s taste–some people find the mouthpuckering taste of the vinegar too much. A friend who tried a drink I made said the first sip was a shock, but then it grew on him.
Apple Cinnamon Shrub
Macerating the apples in sugar brings out a fresh, fragrant apple flavour; cooking the same apples briefly in vinegar extracts more and different apple flavours, plus some of the colour from the peel.
Hands-On Time: 20 minutes | Start to Finish: 3 days (includes macerating time in the fridge)
2 cups roughly chopped apples (see Tips below) (500 ml)
1 cup sugar (250 ml)
1 cup cider vinegar (250 ml)
1 stick cinnamon
1. In a bowl or pitcher, mix apples and sugar. Cover and refrigerate at least overnight, or up to 3 days. The sugar will draw juice out of the apples.
2. Combine apple-sugar mixture with 4 cups (1 L) water and stir until sugar dissolves. Strain mixture to separate apples and juice, reserving both.
3. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring 1/2 cup (125 ml) water, vinegar, cinnamon stick, and reserved apples to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, remove from heat and allow to cool.
4. Strain apples out of vinegar mixture. Don’t squeeze the apple pulp through the strainer; just let it drain on its own. Discard apples (or use to make sauce; see Tips, below). Discard cinnamon stick. Add flavoured vinegar, according to your taste, to apple juice (see Tips, below).
Tips: If you’re planning to discard the apples after heating them in the vinegar, there’s no need to remove the cores when you macerate them–just pull off the stems and chop them whole. But if you do cut away the cores, the cooked apples can be used to make a tart apple sauce to accompany roast pork or turkey (add some extra apples to cut the vinegar flavour).
Add a portion of the flavoured vinegar to the juice and try it; depending on your taste for tart flavours, you may not want to add all of it.
Yield: Makes about 5 1/2 cups (1.375 L).