Cranberry-Black Pepper Shrub Cocktail For when you wish you could drink the cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving...

Cranberry Black Pepper Shrub Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThis space is too lighthearted to get very political or get in-depth about current news events, but with Thanksgiving coming next week, it’s a good reminder to be thankful for whatever you have in your life. And if it’s Thanksgiving, I’m shoving cranberry sauce in my face like no one is watching.Cranberry Black Pepper Shrub Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

I’m of the camp that you need a little sweet with the savory. And while I enjoy pretty much all the flavors that grace the holiday table (except maybe you, green bean casserole), you bet that on every forkful of turkey or potatoes or creamed onions, there is a little bit of cranberry sauce. Ok, maybe a LOT of cranberry sauce.

And I’m not picky either. You want to feed me the jello version from the can? Sure, I’ll take it. Or you made a passed down recipe from your great-grandmother that is laced with a little booze? Sure, I’ll take that too. I’ll take them all.Cranberry Black Pepper Shrub Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

So why am I not eating it more often so that when Turkey Day comes I’m not feeding myself like a ravenous zombie? Well, I kinda forget about it. I think the ensuing coma from eating resets my brain every year and I spend the rest of the time oblivious until a week or so before Thanksgiving when I see some ad in a magazine and my mouth starts salivating in a Pavlovian response.Cranberry Black Pepper Shrub Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

This year it was decided that since I have such a short window of time to enjoy cranberries, I’ll make the most of it and enjoy them by not only eating those berries, but also drinking them! In fact, I figured if I made a shrub with them, I’d get to enjoy them a little bit longer (although, it’s so darn tasty I doubt it will stick around for very long).

This black pepper–spiced cranberry shrub is sweet, savory, and tart. It mixes up quick and with a fruity sparkling wine and citrusy bitters, the drink works wonderfully to lighten a meal packed with sweet potatoes, stuffing, turkey, and more. And if you don’t use up the whole shrub in one go, it will keep in the fridge for at least a month.Cranberry Black Pepper Shrub Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

For the Cranberry-Black Pepper Shrub

2 cups (approximately 10 ounces by weight) cranberries
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns, lightly crushed
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

In a nonreactive saucepan, combine cranberries, peppercorns, apple cider vinegar, sugar, and water. Stir to combine. Cover and place over medium-high heat. Cook, opening the lid and stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and some of the cranberries begin popping open, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, uncover, and allow to cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Pour entire mixture into an airtight, nonreactive container. Refrigerate at least 8 and up to 12 hours. Strain mixture twice through a fine-mesh strainer, transfer to an airtight container, and refrigerate for up to one month.Cranberry Black Pepper Shrub Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

For the Cocktails (yields 12 drinks)

36 ounces chilled sparkling wine (from 2 bottles)
20 dashes orange bitters, Regan’s used here
12 ounces chilled Cranberry-Black Pepper Shrub
Cranberries, for garnish

Slowly pour chilled sparkling wine into a pitcher. Add bitters and chilled cranberry-black pepper shrub. Stir very gently to mix. Serve immediately. Individual glasses can be garnished with cranberries.

Note: For a non-alcoholic alternative, combine 1 ounce of the cranberry-black pepper shrub, 1/4 ounce simple syrup, and 3 ounces club soda (I love Q-Club!) in a wine glass. (Add two dashes of orange bitters, if desired—they contain a tiny amount of alcohol.) Garnish with cranberries and serve.
This recipe originally appeared on Serious Eats

MxMo: Night Call

Mixology Monday: Night Call Cocktail // stirandstrain.com
Mixology Monday LogoIt’s been awhile since I’ve done something simple on here. By that I don’t mean poured some whiskey in a glass handed it to you as a post; you don’t need a post on how to do that. I hope.

What I mean is something straightforward. Something you don’t need a timer to make, or cheesecloth, or 48 hours to wait until you can drink it. And for this month’s Mixology Monday theme of “The Unknown”, I have just the recipe. Chris from A Bar Above has dared us all to work with an ingredient (or technique) that we have never worked with before and I spent over a week thinking about just what I would do. Mixology Monday: Night Call Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

And then I had an answer: I chose balsamic vinegar. Yes! That liquid you pour on your salad! Actually, this has been on my ideas list for some time now, but the opportunity never really came up to make something with it. I’m distinguishing this from shrubs, which I have used, because in those cases I made the shrub and also because I haven’t used grape musts before, which is the base for the balsamic I am using. The one caveat here is that I am using a reduced balsamic, which is more of a syrupy consistency. I was initially going to reduce a balsamic vinegar for the recipe but I’m trying to be simple, and I love the flavor of the one I have on hand. So, there you go…one less step.

Mixology Monday: Night Call Cocktail // stirandstrain.comBalsamic vinegar by itself is a pretty powerful ingredient. Even in this condensed, sweeter form, Crema di Balsamico still sings back to its vinegary beginnings. So I had to find another powerful star for this drink, and for that I turned to mezcal. In fact, all of the components to this drink are stand outs, but together in the cocktail they somehow work to balance each other out. They all become team players here instead of divas.

So let’s crack into the Unknown and make a drink.

1-1/2 ounces mezcal, Montelobos used here
1 ounce freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
3/4 ounce Aperol
1/2 ounce Crema di Balsamico
grapefruit peel for garnish

  • In a shaker 2/3 filled with ice, combine mezcal, grapefruit juice, Aperol and balsamic. Shake hard to mix well (that balsamic might need some help getting out of the jigger too) for about 25 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a grapefruit peel.

While the mezcal does provide a hefty backbone to this drink it doesn’t overpower the whole. Grapefruit gives a bit of sweetness and also a touch of bitterness while the crema di balsamico adds the essence of “tang” instead of “vinegar”. Aperol was a later addition to the drink and ended up connecting the dots of the cocktail, roundimg out the flavors and making them work well together.

 

Big thanks to Chris this month for hosting Mixology Monday and as always to Fred for keeping it alive. Looking forward to everyone’s submissions. 

Make It: Rosemary-Tangelo Shrub

Rosemary-Tangelo Shrub // stirandstrain.comThis post should have been up days ago. Alas, I was struck down by a nasty cold. The kind where getting up from bed is unheard of and the only thing you can muster the strength to do is hit ‘next’ to continue binge watching episodes of Midsomer Murders on Netflix which quite frankly are much too long to hold a sick person’s attention as you always fall asleep before they discover who the murderer is. But now that the fog is clearing from my brain I figured I’d grab a chance to get this up, a reposting from my article on the Serious Drinks site from last week.

In an effort to try more herb-forward shrub recipes, I turned to the most prolific herb in my garden. You guessed it: rosemary. I also have a tangelo tree that won’t quit; so that was going to be put to good use too.

The end result was a more savory shrub with an aggressive, woodsy nature to it. The tangelo sits in the background offering a lingering note to the flavor. Mainly though, you’ll want to taste test every few days while making this until you get the flavor YOU want. The vinegar,which as I said in the Blackberry shrub, will always be very present, but it does soften as it sits.Rosemary-Tangelo Shrub // stirandstrain.com

6 sprigs 5” long rosemary
1 cup sugar
1 cup freshly squeezed tangelo juice from approximately 3 and a half medium sized tangelos
1 cup apple cider vinegar

  1. Combine rosemary sprigs and sugar in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit 8 hours or overnight.
  2. Add juice to the bowl and stir to help start to dissolve sugar. Let sit, covered, overnight, occasionally stirring sugar every few hours. Fine strain mixture into a bottle or airtight container. Add apple cider vinegar and shake well to combine. Seal and store in fridge. After 3 days, start tasting for desired flavor. After 6 days, shrub should be ready to use.
  3. Use within 1 year for optimal flavor.

The rosemary-tangelo shrub works well on its own with some sparkling water, or with an ounce of gin too over some ice. The strong flavors do more favorably with less ingredients added to them.

Mixology Monday: Classic Blackberry Shrub

Mixology Monday Blackberry Shrub // stirandstrain.com
Mixology Monday LogoOk, first off guys, I am well aware it’s not Monday despite the name of the post. However, I wanted to get this up before the Monday deadline. What deadline? What are you talking about? Mixology Monday for you newbies here is the once a month “cocktail party” where internet people like to show off with a drink they made based on a theme by whoever “hosts” this month. Please read up on it here and see past entries on the MxMo site. This month, Craig from “A World of Drinks” gave us the theme of “Preserves” (and yes, there’s a lot of quotation marks happening in this paragraph). It took me a second to realize that I was already planning on making a shrub this month, and since making shrubs was an old school way of preserving fruit, I was ready to publish a double duty post this month.

Mixology Monday Blackberry Shrub // stirandstrain.com

Blackberries. I love the taste of them, but, truth be told, I hate eating them. Those little seeds! They always get stuck in my teeth and half the time they seem like too much of a bother to eat. Anyone with me on this or am I crazy? Last week my husband was out getting some food and I had asked him to pick up some blueberries. Apparently the store was out and he figured I just wanted a berry that was close enough to blue to eat. So he picked up blackberries instead. After scrunching up my face at them and letting them sit there for a few days, the overwhelming urge not to waste food made me cave in. What to do with them?

Mixology Monday Blackberry Shrub // stirandstrain.comA shrub! If I made them into a shrub I was just going to extract their juices and all those annoying little seeds would stay in the strainer. I might have patted myself on the back there for thoughtfulness.

Shrubs are a bit well known now, more so than say, a year ago. I see them a lot more on cocktail menus and on the shelves of my local liquor suppliers. Shrubs are also pretty simple to make yourself; let me show you how.

Mixology Monday Blackberry Shrub // stirandstrain.com

Classic Blackberry Shrub

1 cup whole blackberries, rinsed
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar

  1. Combine blackberries and sugar in a bowl. Lightly crush the blackberries to release their juices (I used a potato masher, but a fork would suffice). Cover and let sit 8 hours or overnight. Shake the bowl every once in awhile to make sure the sugar is incorporating into the juice. Half way through, stir the mixture and re-cover.
  2. Next, strain the mixture through a fine strainer into an airtight container. Add the vinegar and shake well (if any sugar has remained, shake hard to dissolve here). Store the container in the refrigerator for 6 days.
  3. After 6 days give it a taste. Usually, by day 6 the sharpness of the vinegar has started to pull back and let the sweetness from the sugar and fruit stand out more. Keep in mind, this is a vinegar base: it will ALWAYS taste like vinegar. The vinegar will mellow more as it sits but its zing is what is wanted in a shrub.

For this shrub, there is a nice sweet and sour balance from the ingredients. The blackberries produce a tartness that is heightened from the vinegar while the sugar cuts through to keep your mouth from puckering. Strong nose of vinegar with subtle berry.

Sparkling Blackberry Shrub (no booze)

1/2 ounce blackberry shrub (recipe above)
6 ounces sparkling water
1 lime wedge

Fill a rocks glass with the water and pour the shrub down the center. Stir to combine. Squeeze a wedge of lime and add spent lime to the glass.

And here’s Christopher’s cocktail recipe with the shrub he’s been making:

2 ounces 4 Roses Bourbon Yellow Label
1 ounce Blackberry Shrub (recipe above)
1/4 ounce maple syrup

Fill a mixing glass 2/3 with ice. Add all ingredients and stir to chill. Strain into a cocktail glass.

Thanks to Craig for hosting this month and Fred for keeping MxMo up and alive!