It’s official. I’m in love with shrubs.
What is a shrub, you ask? Well, there are certainly others who can explain it better than I can, but the basics are this: fruit + sugar + vinegar. Sounds strange, yes, but the roots of this drink go all the way back to the Romans who used it as a way to preserve fresh fruit. It’s a really interesting combination of sweet and sour, and even if you are skeptical, worth a try.
Anyway, a friend made some pomegranate shrub and gave us a small bottle when we were in New Orleans in December. We hadn’t really done much with it until recently when the weather started getting nice.
Shrubs can be used to make both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, which makes them pretty versatile in application, and there are TONS of recipes online about how to make them (our friend referenced this one). Most of these recipes say they are “fantastic additions to cocktails” but don’t really go into the details about what cocktails, what proportions or anything really.
So we started with the most basic recipe. The pomegranate shrub we have is delicious when added to sparkling water, so why hide that amazing flavor with something fancy? This a a simple vodka soda with shrub added. Vodka is the definition of neutral, so try ANY flavor shrub with this recipe.
This recipe is a bit of a happy accident. Last year I was experimenting with cherries to make our own garnishes for cocktails. Someone had left some brandy at our place after a party, and I thought I’d play with this forgotten bottle.
The process was simple: Buy some fresh cherries (the sweet kind, not the bitter/sour kind), remove the stems and the pits, put them in a jar, and fill the jar with brandy so the cherries are completely submerged.
Leave the jar in the refrigerator for some period of time (days, weeks, months), and that’s it. Super easy.
The problem was when I tried the cherries after a few weeks. WAY too strong with brandy and not enjoyable as a garnish for anything. The alcohol in the brandy had also pulled the color out, so they resembled green olives more than cherries. Again, not good for a garnish.
Honestly, then I forgot about them. They lived in the back of the refrigerator for months. It was only recently that I realized what I did have was a nice cherry-infused brandy, which was much more interesting than the cherries themselves.
So, what to make with cherry-infused brandy? How about a Brandy Manhattan? It is sometimes also called a Metropolitan, which causes some confusion. There is another version of a Metropolitan cocktail out there, that is a cousin of the Cosmopolitan and includes vodka, lime juice and cranberry juice. I am not talking about this drink.
As the name would imply, this lovely drink uses the same ratios of a regular Manhattan, but with brandy in the place of Rye.
Friday Happy Hour: Cherry-Infused Brandy Manhattan
- 60 ml (2 oz) Cherry-infused brandy
- 30 ml (1 oz) Sweet vermouth
- 3-4 dashes Angostura bitters (or other savory bitters)
- Garnish with a Maraschino cherry (the real kind, like Luxardo or Amarena)
- Chill glass
- Mix all ingredients in a mixing glass full of ice for 20-30 seconds
- Pour into chilled glass, add garnish.
If this is too much brandy for you, you can tone it back to 45 ml (1.5 oz).