Category Archives: Bartending

History & How-To: Shrub Cocktails

Ruth Hartnup, Flickr Commons

Bar owners and restaurateurs nationwide began reinventing the Prohibition Era speak easy quite a few years ago, launching a craze for classic cocktails and the dashing mustachioed barkeeps who create them. But naturally, as when any style trend becomes conventional, foodie taste makers have had to move on to something new… or, in this case, truly old.

Introducing the shrub, a drink recipe colonial Americans brought with them from England.

A shrub is an alcoholic or non-alcoholic mixed drink built on the flavor of a shrub syrup (aka “a shrub”), which is a reduction of fruit, vinegar, and sweetener.

Shrub syrups are ideal for making use of cosmetically imperfect produce or an over-abundant harvest, something chefs new to managing their own farm-to-table yields may find valuable again here in the 21st century. Though the syrup is traditionally prepared with equal parts vinegar, sugar, and fruit, the possible flavor combinations are limitless when vegetables, herbs, and spices are used in addition to, or in place of, the fruit.

How To Make a Shrub Syrup:

Combine 1 part fruit and 1 part sugar, allow to rest until sugar has dissolved and combined with fruit juices to create a syrup. This could take up to a few days. Strain out the solids. Add 1 part vinegar and let the mixture mellow to taste. Once it’s ready, add it to this simple cocktail recipe.

Fruit Shrub Spritzer Recipe:

Soft Drinks Face Continued Challenges

The soft drink world has faced constant problems in recent years, all stemming from a perception and link towards increased obesity rates in America. With soft drinks being traditionally high in sugar, they find themselves in the crosshairs of politicians and dietitians. While New York avoided a “sugary drink tax,” the concept has not disappeared.

The International Business Times reports that New Zealanders find themselves in support of limiting the amount of sugar that can be included in soft drinks. 46% surveyed “definitely” support a limit, while 32% “possibly” do. Less support the concept of taxing sugary drinks, but 46% agree on a tax. A greater 59% prefer a limit on serving size. While New Zealand has no plans to introduce a tax (and Coca-Cola claims that it “cannot solve the obesity crisis”), the World Health Organization does cite the country with one of the worst increasing obesity rates and fast-food consumption. Taxing sugary drinks would help curb obesity, if only to encourage people not to drink them.

A tax has been proposed for Illinois, though. Akin to the New York proposal, it would tax any sugary drink, adding one cent per ounce, and would add a $2.88 tax to each case. Companies and retail establishments fear the loss of sales from the drinks, especially when the tax on a case of drinks might be about the same price as the case itself. California is also proposing a bill, SB 1000, that would require a warning label on any drink that was sold in stores with added sweeteners, featuring 75 or more calories per 12 ounces stating “STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.” For restaurants with self-serve drinks, it would be on the dispenser. Restaurants that keep drinks behind the counter would feature it on the counter. While many companies have featured voluntary labels listing calories on bottles, many are opposed to this new enforced labeling.

It may not require taxation or special labeling to curtail the consumption of sugary drinks. Coca-Cola reports that 2013′s revenue was not as what was expected: global sales did not rise as much as they wanted, and US sales actually lowered.

Coca-Cola said on Tuesday that global sales volumes rose 1 percent in the quarter and 2 percent for the full year. Volumes in North America fell 1 percent in the quarter, while those in Europe grew just 1 percent as consumer spending remained subdued.

Coca-Cola is joined by Pepsi in reduced sales in America and other developed nations, as people reach for healthier options. In hopes of improved sales of their drinks, Coca-Cola bought a 10% stake in Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, known for their Keurig coffee makers; Coke is looking to use their technology and mindset to develop an in-home beverage dispenser. Meanwhile, they look to save $1 billion in productivity improvements, and will funnel that money towards advertising.

Have you noticed a slip in soft drink sales in your restaurant, and do you have any plans to combat that? How would you handle taxes or new labeling requirements?

The World Of Mocktails

Some people like the taste of alcoholic drinks without chancing drinking and driving, or otherwise abstain completely from alcoholic beverages. “Mocktails” are the safe-to-drink variations of cocktails, and with one of the most iconic mocktails, Shirley Temple, having its namesake pass away this week, it’s a great time to look at a drink (and a range of drinks it is included in) that she made iconic.

Common Mocktails

Arnold Palmer, Shirley Temple, Freddie Bartholomew, Roy Rogers, and even Virgin Mary: these people may have nothing in common, outside of the fact they’re inspiration for mocktails. What does it take to make each of these?

  • Arnold Palmer: 50% lemonade, 50% iced tea. When you can’t decide what cold drink to have for refreshment, go for this one.
  • Freddie Bartholomew: ginger ale and lime juice.
  • Shirley Temple: ginger ale (or lemon-lime soda), splash of grenadine, garnished with a maraschino cherry. Commonly, this can be made alcoholic and named “Shirley Temple Black”, her adult, married name, by the addition of vodka.
  • Roy Rogers: cola and grenadine, garnished with a maraschino cherry.
  • Virgin Mary: a non-alcoholic version of a Bloody Mary, containing tomato juice, Tabasco sauce, and garnished with a celery stalk.

Beyond these named for famous people, there are other mocktails that stand on their own.

  • Virgin Colada: a non-alcoholic version of the Piña Colada, combining cream of coconut and pineapple juice, garnished with a pineapple wedge and maraschino cherry.
  • Gunner: ginger beer or lemonade combined with ginger ale and a dash of lemon juice or lime cordial, and a dash of Angostura bitters (while considered non-alcoholic, bitters are 44.7% alcohol).
  • Lemon, Lime and Bitters: lemonade, lime cordial, and Angostura bitters.
  • Tortuga: Much like American Sweet Tea, a Tortuga is iced tea with brown sugar, garnished with cinnamon and a lime wedge.

Why might you want to look into serving mocktails?

Cost Efficiency and Safety

Many people might like these drinks when they’re in a situation where they can’t drink. Offering mocktails allows them to have a unique drink, but also allows you to not tap in to your expensive alcohol offerings. Some people may even want to look like they’re drinking (to act as if they’re keeping up with friends), so mocktails might allow them to continue a night without pressures from friends.

One way to even encourage patronage with non-alcoholic drinks is to offer free drinks to designated drivers. The designated driver concept is an honorable one for many bars and restaurants; in a good night of drinks and debauchery, one pal might opt to be the designated driver. While everyone else can enjoy their drinks with alcohol, he or she can have free drinks at the cost of not being alcoholic. One way to institute this program is to offer the designated driver a wristband; this wristband will indicate to staff, bartenders, and waitstaff that they’re not to have alcoholic drinks, but can have free drinks.

Mocktails can keep the world safe, and increase your profitability. Don’t make the mistake of skipping them on your menu.