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Barb Blips: Sour Love – A Vinegar Story

Posted on Friday, Oct. 31, 2014


I hope everyone is enjoying this roller coaster of a fall and  buckling down for the impending holiday season (yeah, I said it). In the spirit of giving thanks the Metropole team is so grateful for our new fall cocktail list and can’t wait to hear everyone’s feedback.  So you may have noticed on our new list that I have a slight obsession with vinegar. Perhaps there are weirder (and less smelly) things to be obsessed with, but there you have it.  Cocktails with vinegar may not seem like the ideal cocktail marriage, but as they say of many great pairings, opposites attract.  When you’re trying to create balance in a cocktail, vinegar is the perfect equalizer when it comes to preventing overly sweet flavor profiles.  One of my favorite vinegar concoctions for cocktails are shrubs. I went on and on about my love for this versatile elixir in a previous bar blip, and the devotion continues, especially with the delicious shrubs we’re serving up this season. On the current list we have:

CONCORD GRAPE: lemon balm, juniper, coriander, cinnamon, apple cider vinegar
PLUM SHRUB: sage, mace, house vinegar
GRAPEFRUIT SHRUB: cardamom, thyme, red wine vinegar.

We love being able to give our guests room to play, so while we have cocktails listed with shrubs on the menu, it is so fun when guests want to play around and create their own cocktails. For instance, the grape shrub found in a bubbly cocktail called The Grape Gatsby is also amazing with gin. The plum shrub in the gin cocktail can also be quite tasty with bourbon. This is part of the reason we create our own mixers so that we can give guests the opportunity to tailor drinks to their preferences, and happy guests always make for tastier cocktails.

To further prove my infatuation with vinegar, we’ve also added our own Metropole twist on the classic beverage the switchel. Swtichels are a hybrid of ginger beer and shrubs, typically made with water, ginger, apple cider vinegar and some sort of sweetener, most commonly honey or maple syrup. Also known as haymakers punch, my geeky side loves the rich history behind this intriguing beverage, a pleasant concoction created more for necessity than desire.  Switchel originated in the Caribbean, and became a popular summer drink in the American Colonies in the late 17th century. By the 19th century, it had become a traditional drink to serve thirsty farmers at hay harvest time to slake their thirst and provide natural energy while haying, so basically the O.G. Gatorade, which is pretty rad.   Farmers would mix up a jug of switchel in the morning and put it in a nearby brook while they were haying. The beverage would keep them satiated until they made it back to the farmhouse in the evening.  The switchel eventually fell out favor, but wouldn’t you know it, cocktail mixers and shakers have created a resurgence in recent years and am I ever so thankful!  The Metropole switchel is nontraditional in that instead of ginger we use beautiful ginger grass provided by Carriage House farm.  We steep the grass to create a tea then add honey, juniper, orange peel and finish it all off with apple cider vinegar.  The flavor is slightly more delicate than traditional switchels, but is perfect in our cocktail, the Rye of the Storm, which is rye, our house made fig bitters and plenty of switchel.   It is a cocktail that we’re very proud of, and we can’t wait for everyone to say they had their first switchel at Metropole.

For all the lovely cocktail pupils out there reading this, our next class on November 23rd will be a discussion of all things…you guessed it: vinegar! I will share recipes on how to create your own shrubs, switchels and how to make your own vinegar at home. Yes, the obsession is so deep we actually created our own vinegar in our very own diabolical vinegar lab. (Okay, It isn’t really diabolical, I just think it sounds cool.)  In the past we’ve created apple cider vinegar, watermelon vinegar, strawberry champagne vinegar, and have some rather curious and hopefully delicious vinegar for the fall and winter. The wonderful thing about tending bar at Metropole is that we have such an amazing and collaborative relationship with the kitchen, and they’ve actually used some of our vinegar for dishes on the menu. This will definitely be a unique cocktail class, and I have some delicious beverages for everyone to try, so don’t forget to reserve your spot today!

With all of this holiday madness just around the corner the last thing you should worry about is spending your entire holiday party mixing cocktails.  Whenever I create cocktails at a family gathering I try to approach it the way I would bartending, I always try to be efficient and also appeal to a large group of people who all have different palates (and in my family, especially strong opinions).  The following recipe is a wonderful syrup you can make days ahead of time and is so versatile and festive it will add pizzazz to your Thanksgiving gathering without the stress, which I am always thankful for.

3 cups frozen or fresh cranberries
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
3 sprigs of rosemary
3 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick
peel of one lemon

Place 3 cups (about 12 ounces) frozen or fresh cranberries, 1 cup water, and 3/4 cup granulated sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir and once sugar has dissolved, add star anise, cinnamon stick and lemon peel. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low and simmer until cranberries are falling apart, about 15 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a medium bowl and let the strainer sit over the bowl until the syrup has cooled to room temperature, about 1 hour. Discard the solids and refrigerate the syrup in a container with a lid for up to 2 weeks.

GLASSWARE: coupe or champagne flute
GARNISH: rosemary sprig, or lemon peel

1 oz spiced cranberry syrup
4 oz sparkling wine

TIPS: To create a more efficient way of serving, have your glasses set out with the syrup already in them. Pour bubbles into glasses as your guests arrive and welcome them to your home with this fizzy cocktail.  You can also add this syrup to soda water as a great festive beverage for the kiddies, and this can be added to a number of other spirits like bourbon or lower octane options like Cocchi Americano, or Dolin Blanc. Just remember the holidays don’t have to be stressful, especially when cocktails are involved.

We hope to see you on a bar stool very soon, and we want to take the time to express our gratitude for the awesome support and patronage we’ve experienced in the last two years.  We have the most amazing guests who love to have fun and are so supportive of the new cocktails we’re putting out there. “Thank you” does not seem to be a big enough phrase to encapsulate our gratitude, but we sincerely hope our guests can always feel that sentiment when they come to visit us. Cheers to many more years!


Your neighborhood bartender,
Catherine Manabat