Learn to make a cocktail using shrubs, the trendy vinegar-based fruit syrups

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Advocates of drinking apple cider vinegar cite all kinds of health benefits, from reduced blood sugar to cancer prevention. But when Jenn Fink of Pub Royale was challenged by Brett Lichnerowicz of Luxbar to create a cocktail with the vinegar, she immediately thought of a drink popular in colonial America: the shrub. Made by combining fruit, vinegar, and sugar, shrubs were either mixed with soda water or used as a cocktail ingredient; they fell out of favor after refrigeration became common but have seen a resurgence in the last few years or so. 

Boomslang Bite by Jenn Fink - CORY POPP
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  • Boomslang Bite by Jenn Fink

Fink has been making shrubs for years, and says that ginger is her favorite—so that became the starting point for her cocktail. She created shrubs with pineapple, ginger, cumin, and mint in varying combinations, covering them with sugar and letting them sit for a day or so, then straining out the solids and adding apple cider vinegar to the sugar syrup. While she tested out many variations, she says a good starting point is equal parts sugar, vinegar, and fruits, roots, herbs, or spices. "It's super in-your-face when you first try it," Fink says, "but it mellows over time."

As for the drink itself, Fink had a "light, easy-drinking summer beer cocktail" in mind. Inspired by a shandygaff, or ginger ale mixed with beer, she combined gin, Madeira wine, several of her shrubs, and sugarcane syrup, then topped off the cocktail with Four Hands Incarnation IPA and tiki bitters. She named the drink after the highly venomous boomslang snake, since it reminded her of a more potent Snakebite (hard cider and lager).

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Who's next:

Fink has challenged Matthew Jannotta of the bars at Soho House Chicago to create a cocktail with popcorn popped on the stovetop.

Boomslang Bite
.25 oz ginger-mint-cumin shrub
.25 oz ginger-mint shrub
.5 oz pineapple-ginger-cumin shrub
.5 oz Madeira
.5 oz Ford's gin
Fresh pineapple
4 Hands Incarnation IPA
Tiki bitters

Muddle a few chunks of fresh pineapple in a cocktail shaker, then add all the ingredients except the last two, ice, and shake. Strain into a rocks glass and top with IPA and a few drops of tiki bitters.

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