$19, available at Glen’s Garden Market,Yes! Organic Market and www.elementshrub.com
Founder Charlie Berkinshaw likes to wait until people taste cocktails mixed with his shrubs before telling them that the No. 1 ingredient is vinegar. “I don’t want them to say, ‘Salad dressing? Why would I want to put salad dressing in a drink?’ ” Luckily, his flavors — like blueberry rosemary and chai pear — are so well-rounded that you’d never be put off. Shrubs, which originated in the 18th century when people mixed vinegar with fruit to preserve it, add complexity to a drink with few ingredients and are healthier than soda: A serving of Element Shrubs has less than 20 calories. Still hesitant? Try Berkinshaw’s simple lemon and basil flavor, which he calls the “gateway shrub.”
$10, available at the Mess Hall pop-up at Union Market and truetonics.com
You may be struck by Tory Pratt’s brightly hued tonic, which is a far cry from the crystal clear variety you see at grocery stores. The main difference is the addition of cinchona bark, a natural source of quinine, both a treatment for malaria and a key ingredient in tonic. To make the all-natural mixer, Pratt combines cinchona bark with water, turmeric, ginger, saffron, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, allspice, citric acid, citrus zest and lemon grass and heats the concoction for a few hours before straining. “I’m essentially making a really concentrated tea, and adding simple syrup made with cane sugar,” she says. “It harkens back to what tonic is supposed to be.”
$12-$15, available at Hill’s Kitchen and embittermentdc.com
Though most cocktail recipes call for just a drop or two of bitters, a quality product can make a difference. (Extracts are made in a similar manner, so it’d be like baking with a fancy vanilla extract over a cheapo one.) “We use ingredients like clove, star anise, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and fennel seed,” says Eric Kozlik, who launched Embitterment with his buddy Ethan Hall in September. Used as a medicinal cure-all in the Victorian era, bitters have a settling effect due to gentian root, a naturally bitter plant that lends Embitterment’s products their piquant flavors.
You may also like:
Evan Cablayan introduces fresh cocktails at Macon Bistro & Larder