The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2017

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36  /  the tasting panel  /  july 2017 In Defense of… Want to contribute In Defense Of an industry trend? Email for your chance to contribute a letter. Shrubs by Sam Spoehr Sam Spoehr is the Bar Manager at Bludso's Bar & Que in West Hollywood, CA. I see the patron reading the drink description on my cocktail menu and know what's coming next: "Wait, what's a shrub?" After a quick explanation, I grab the bottle and give them a taste. Most people are apprehensive to try a fruit- or vegetable-based vinegar drink, but they trust their neighborhood bartender, and when they give it a try, they're pleas- antly surprised. They get their second taste after I've shaken it with a spirit, and both spirit and shrub are completely transformed. Vinegar-based drinks are nothing new. They date back to Roman times and had a place of prominence during Colonial America. Gentleman, ladies, sailors and presidents would all enjoy refreshing shrub liba- tions during the sweltering American summers. Shrubs seemed to have their moment in the sun a few years ago, then fizzled out. You can still find them on special boards or cocktail menus (including mine), but I get the feeling some would call their return a "fad"—which is unfair. They've been around longer than the classic Old Fashioned, and how many versions of that staple drink have you seen? From a flavor perspective, spirits are elevated with a shrub. The right spirit with the right shrub doesn't require much else: A little extra citrus or a splash of club soda, and you have a lot of flavor packed into that glass. Also, shrubs are fantastic non-alcoholic drinks, as they offer an exotic divergent from the standard mocktails. A surprise beneficiary of shrubs' versatility? Food. Shrubs can complement a restaurant menu, and the food itself can influence the type of shrub made at the restaurant. Utilizing a popular ingredient on the food menu in your shrub can give your offerings a cohesive and full-circle feel. Do you have extra fruit and vegetables that may be thrown away at the end of service? Apply them in a shrub for a seasonal special or even a shift drink down the line. Your patrons and co-workers will thank you. Shrubs take time and planning if you want to make them right, but with American summer in full swing—baseball and barbecue come to mind—it's downright patriotic. PHOTO: BRENT CAMPANELLI

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