As the tail end of summer approaches, it’s time to enjoy the remaining fruits and produce of the season. While many will preserve these garden delicacies for future cooking projects, The Museum of the American Cocktail recently hosted a seminar entitled “Fruits of the Harvest” which focused on how to save the fresh flavors of summer and incorporate them into your cocktail recipes all year long.The event, led by Chef Geoff’s Elli Benchimol and PS7’s Gina Chersevani, provided detailed instructions on creating tinctures from fresh herbs, peppers and blossoms, and pickling and canning techniques for fruits and veggies. And, of course, the demonstrations included sampling some magnificent cocktails.
The creative concoctions included Elli’s Salsa Verde, a tequila-based cocktail forged with cilantro and a habanero tincture and Chersevani’s gin martini variation topped with a pickled grape and seasoned with her pickling liquid.
The drink that piqued my interest the most was Chersevani’s raspberry shrub punch. This multi-layered cocktail incorporated a plethora of fresh herbs and combined them with rye whiskey, sparkling wine and a zesty homemade raspberry shrub.
A shrub is vinegar and fruit based drink that dates back to American colonial days. It was an easy way for farmers to preserve end-of–season fruit. According to Chersevani, shrubs were a popular refresher at that time, often enjoyed by field workers who spent their days toiling in the sun. The acidity in the drink would make the laborers feel less thirsty.
While the fruit and vinegar combination may sound strange, imagine the way that an acidic squeeze of fresh lemon juice can highlight the flavor of fresh berries.
Chersevani describes the shrub as one of the easiest preservation techniques to master. In addition to berries, she suggests experimenting with apricots, peaches, plums and pears.
Her shrub recipe implements a simple 1:1:1:1 ratio. The process starts by combining one pint of fresh fruit, in this case raspberries, and one cup of red wine vinegar. The two are combined and placed on a shelf for ten days to meld. The only action required is a simple agitation of the jar once a day. “Do not shake it,” Chersevani warned,” Just give a quick swirl-around.”
After the allotted time, the fruit and vinegar combo is poured into a saucepan and mixed with one pint of sugar and water. The blend is boiled until its volume is halved. The shrub is strained, cooled and stored in jars.
On its own, Chersevani’s shrub had a strong and pungent flavor. But when mixed in her punch, it provided a jovial tart and toothsome smack that tasted like a brisk walk through a ripe orchard.
While the punch had a pleasant sweetness, no additional sugar, other than what was used in making the shrub, was used. Instead of being cloyingly sweet, the acidity of the shrub popped the bright taste of the rye whiskey and highlighted the complex flavor of the herbs.
While this punch takes several stages to put together, its unique sunny essence will impress your guests at your next get-together.
Farm Stand Shrub Punch
16 oz. raspberry shrub
32 oz .Wild Turkey Rye
16 oz. lemon juice
32 oz. sparkling wine
20 sage leaves
10 basil leaves
10 sprigs of thyme
10 dashes lemon bitters
In a punch bowl combine rye, shrub, lemon juice and herbs. Gina suggests dry muddling the herbs and placing them in an empty tea bag. Let mixture stand for at least one hour. Before serving, add ice, bitters and sparkling wine. Serve in punch glasses with a lemon slice.
Ingredients to make this punch may be purchased at Dixie liquor located at 3429 M St. in Georgetown. For more information about upcoming Museum of the American Cocktail seminars go to MuseumOftheAmericanCocktail.org.