Monday, August 22, 2016

Mixology Monday: You Say Tomato

You Say Tomato

Mixology Monday After a summer away, Mixology Monday is back! This month's host is Mr. Muddle, and the theme is vinegar. I'm pretty excited about it. I've only used vinegar in my cocktails twice: for the Bufala Negra and the Strawberry Balsamic Smash, both of which use a bit of balsamic vinegar. But if you're into cocktails, you probably know that the most common use of vinegar in cocktail recipes is the shrub.

Shrubs, also called drinking vinegars, are mixtures of fruit, sugar, and vinegar that are usually consumed with club soda or included in a cocktail. Shrubs were popular in colonial times, when the vinegar was used as a preservative for fruits and berries. Like just about every other old-timey cocktail ingredient, they're making a comeback in modern mixology. And with good reason. There are few ingredients as positively flavorful as a shrub.

I've only attempted to make a shrub once before, a black peppercorn and cranberry shrub following this recipe from With Food & Love. It did not come out well - it was way too vinegary and was basically undrinkable. I definitely should have added the vinegar bit by bit and tasted it until it was perfect. That scared me off of making my own shrubs for a while, but now I have the perfect excuse to try again.

As I was trying to decide what kind of shrub to make, my eyes fell on the cucumbers and tomatoes I had just harvested from my garden. I remembered a wonderful cocktail I had at Eastern Standard made with tomato shrub and cava, and figured...why not?

I followed the instructions for a cold-process shrub from this Food52 article that MrMuddle kindly provided. It takes a couple of days, but it's a pretty hands-off process, and very easy. You can make a shrub. Trust me.

I did find Food52's suggestion of one cup of sugar for half a pound of tomato to be too sweet. I'd possibly even use half the sugar. I didn't use as much vinegar as they recommended, either. If there's one thing I'm learning about shrubs, it's that you've got to taste as you go and ad-lib a lot. But I am so glad Mixology Monday convinced me to give them another chance - I love the finished product. It's delicious.

As for those cucumbers... stay tuned!

Tomato Shrub

8-10 oz. tomato, chopped
1/2 cup to 1 cup sugar
~6 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

Combine tomato and sugar in a bowl and stir to combine. (I mashed it, and I think this resulted in too much particulate matter floating in the shrub.) Cover the bowl with a dish towel and let sit on the counter for two days, stirring once a day. The tomatoes will release a lot of liquid. After 48 hours, strain the syrup into a measuring cup. I had about 1 cup of syrup, so if you've got more or less than that, adjust your vinegar accordingly. Stir in the vinegar one tablespoon at a time, tasting as you go. Consider setting aside half of your syrup before you add the vinegar, so you can even it out if you add too much.

Recipe adapted from Food52.

You Say Tomato

I don't remember the exact ingredients of the tomato shrub cocktail I had at Eastern Standard, but I liked the idea of mixing this shrub with some sparkling wine, so I decided to use it as my inspiration. I added gin, which went nicely with the shrub, and some grapefruit bitters to tone down the sweetness.

You Say Tomato

1 oz. gin
1 oz. tomato shrub
3 oz. prosecco
2 dashes grapefruit bitters

Combine gin, shrub, and bitters in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a champagne glass or coupe. Top with prosecco. Garnish with cherry tomatoes.

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