Shrubs, Switchels and Sekanjabins – this Summer’s Cocktail!
Summer entertaining is about bringing ‘ease’ and ‘party’ together with neighbours, friends and friends-of-friends! Menus are seasonal, colourful and energising: Vibrant red watermelon with feta salad, grilled corn on the cob with jalapeño-miso butter and Panko breadcrumbs, grilled eggplant with a drizzle of Honey-Tahini and lingonberries — these are my mainstays for summer. Easy to make and impressive on the palette. Then comes the idea of what to drink, especially for a drink that won’t give you a raging hangover — or an Insulin-resistant Sugar-storm the next day.
While Sweden offers a large menu of non-alcoholic drink options, I have found them either too sweet (inducing a blood-sugar storm, both in the body and the mind), or they just taste a bit off (and not in that funky way that natural wines or kombucha can be, which is actually quite part of their appeal). Coming back then to the idea of ease-full entertaining, I like providing an option that I can small-batch and then leave the bar open for guests to make their own drinks, choosing to add some Spirits or not. This is why Shrubs are a surprising and enticing option!
Shrubs hark back to Colonial America, but I tasted my first one a few years ago in Manhattan. It was a mix of fruit, sugar and vinegar, with a splash of gin and soda water. It was rich, flavourful, slightly umami and refreshing. Doing some further research into the full variety of options, from fruits to botanicals, and from tea leaves to nootropic ingredients, I also discovered that this mix has been found in other cultures as well.
Switchel, a mix of vinegar, ginger, molasses and water, was presumably brought to the US from early German Amish colonisers; I tried my first one during college as my college town lived side-by-side with the Amish community. In Europe we have Oxymel, a Greek version that that mixes vinegar with herbs and honey, that harks back to antiquity and was known then as a medicine. Hippocrates noted that it was beneficial for Asthma, coughing and gastrointestinal disorders, among other ailments. It is making a comeback among Herbalists today. Ancient Persian pharmaceutical manuscripts record almost 1200 types of Sekanjabin, a Persian version that often features Mint, and is commonplace today.
”A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”Shakespeare
The beauty of Shrubs is that no matter what you call it, there are infinite ways to play with this basic recipe to create a refreshing—and perhaps medicinal tonic—cocktail for your grill-fest or party this summer. The addition of vinegar will at any rate aid your digestion of the beautiful grilled fare that is also a highlight of this seasons’ cooking.
Combine 1-2 tablespoons shrub into a glass filled with ice. Top with soda water. Stir. Garnish with Lime wheel and herb sprig (such as basil or Mint).
Combine 1-2 tablespoons shrub into a glass filled with ice. Add 30 ml of tequila, gin or vodka. Top with soda water. Stir. Garnish with Lime wheel and herb sprig (Such as basil or Mint).Print
3 dl Fruit/Botanicals (Strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, apricots)
2 dl vinegar (Balsamic, white balsamic, apple cider vinegar)
1 + 1/2 dl maple syrup or honey
Cut up fruit into smaller pieces; for example, quarter strawberries or halve blueberries. In a saucepan, heat up maple syrup, vinegar to a simmer; pour over fruit mixture and mix with a spoon. Let it cool and infuse, 2-3 hours. Pour mixture over a cheesecloth or fine-mesh sieve to remove seeds, into a clean airtight jar and cover with a lid. Keep refrigerated for up to 6 months.
Strawberry + Balsamic Vinegar + Black pepper + Basil garnish Strawberry + Apple cider vinegar + Chile de Arbol
Hibiscus flowers + Apple cider vinegar + Ginger
Apricot + Honey + White vinegar
Dandelion flowers + white balsamic vinegar + honey
Let me know what combinations you try!