Mixology mavens, Lynette Marrero and Kelley Slagle, led this mixology lesson with a lip-pursing variety of vinegar based cocktails. The lesson was extensive, covering every core subject – from the ancient history of vinegar, to its chemical composition, then finally to understanding its practical use in every application, including drinking.
This was my first introduction to drinking vinegars, and I would start this morning’s tasting on with a variety of six vinegars – served straight up. It proceeded in a similar fashion to a wine tasting – going from the lighter varieties to the darker and more richly flavored vinegars. The California vinegars, the Gravenstein Apple and Zinfindel, were respectively fruity and sweet. I also sampled some vinegars from Asia – a mild cane vingar from the Phillippines, and a luxurious brown rice vinegar from Japan. My favorite sampling was the Shanxi Mature Vinegar from China – which had a deeply bold and rich flavor, that reminded me of an intense dark chocolate.
After the tasting, we then moved on to experimenting with vinegar tinctures – vinegar extracts aromatically infused with herbal or floral flavors. In a premixed gin martini, a few drops of my selection of lavender and zinfandel vinegar tincture induced a new, delightful impact of flavor that added some creative twist to the classic cocktail. Tinctures can also be used to spruce up basic old favorites, like an Old-fashioned.
We ended the interactive by experimenting with making our own drinking vinegars, and putting together simple shrubs. Shrubs, fruit infused vinegar drinks, are incredibly easy to concoct, and can be sweetened or cooked to change the flavor to whatever one prefers. I went for a mixed-berry shrub in red wine vinegar. In an 8 ounce mason canning jar, I layered three-quarters of the jar with raspberries and blueberries, filled it to the top with vinegar and sealed it for a few hours. The ideal waiting period to finish a shrub is about 24 to 48 hours, but I would say it took about eight hours for my vinegar to hit the right balance of sweet and sour for my taste.
All Photos by John M. Sconzo, M.D.