Tuesday, August 7

Infused 101: Shrub Cocktails with Cielo Mixologst Cory Cuff

In INFUSED, Elizabeth J. Musgrave connects the art of spirits, wine and beer with culinary and creative arts

Infused 101: All About Shrubs

A resurgence of an old-fashioned bartender staple has emerged and is catching the fast train to Trendyville. Although it sounds like a landscaper's problem, shrubs are popping up in homes and bars nationwide creating confusion with novice and seasoned drinkers alike.

What is it? How do I use it? Can I make it myself?

Initially coming into contact with shrubs at Iozzo’s, Indianapolis, I became intrigued and started researching. Shrub, which means “to drink” in its native Arabic language, is also the word origin for sherbet and syrup as well. Becoming common in the 18th Century as a fruit, sugar and alcohol drink, modern day shrubs are added to mixed drinks to create a much more intense depth of flavor. If paired properly with the other ingredients, it can intensify, highlight and broaden the flavors of the drink.

My friends at Cielo, St. Louis’ swanky rooftop modern Italian restaurant and nightspot, which sits high atop Four Seasons Hotel, were kind enough to create a teaching video. I spoke with in-residence mixologist, Cory Cuff, Certified Specialist of Spirits. Cuff also instructs Cielo’s mixology courses offered to Four Season’s guests. Topics include, Basic Mixing, Spirits & Cocktail Era, Pure Shrubbery, Advanced Bartending and Bar Managing. Cuff’s Pure Shrubbery course teaches the definition, use and types of shrubs, as well as creating and using the cordials.

Infused: In one sentence; what is a shrub?

Cory Cuff: It’s a vinegar-based cordial.

I: Do you drink it by itself or in a cocktail?

CC: All good shrubs should be able to be drunk alone. However, you want to put it with ingredients that will highlight and emphasize what you’re trying to get across. Cucumber-lime shrub? Put it with tequila: it’s a natural fit and will elevate both elements.

I: How difficult is it to make at home?

CC: It’s not difficult to make it. It’s mostly the mind frame that I am going to put vinegar in a mixed drink. Once you get over that mind frame and treat it as a cordial or another mixing element, the sky is the limit.

I: Does it have to be refrigerated afterwards?

CC: It should be.

I: Is it cooked?

CC: It is boiled with sugar. You’ll boil it for about 10 minutes and that’s what you use. It softens the bite of the acid.

I: What type of vinegar?

CC: I’ve been using a lot of Champagne vinegar and, recently, balsamic. However you can make your own vinegar or use any vinegar you want. It’s the end product that matters.

Image and video courtesy of Cielo

Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a syndicated fine-living columnist, travel writer, performing arts and restaurant critic. Catch her newest column, Infused at GottaGo.us and FoodandDrinkDigital.com and as Indy’s Entertainment Adviser on 93 WIBC. Gotta Go is published onGottago.us, BroadwayWorld.com, in M and Retired Living magazines and several newspapers: South Sider Voice, Indiana Weekender, New Palestine Reporter, Pendleton Times Reporter and Fortville-McCordsville Reporter. Follow her on Twitter @GottaGo, LinkedIn and Facebook.

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