Next time you’re in the mood for a cocktail, but there’s no lemons or limes in
the fridge, don’t panic. There’s a mystery ingredient tucked away in your
cupboard which might just save the day, though you’d never have thought of
using it – vinegar.
Cocktails using vinegar have become all the rage in recent years, ever since
bartenders in New York started to experiment with the tangy stuff. Chelsea
bar Barts recently introduced a whole menu of cocktails inspired by the
condiment, while at Aqua Shard, the Devonshire Cream Cup is laced with a
homemade tarragon balsamic vinegar.
Cocktails expert Tony Conigliaro says vinegar has become a favourite
ingredient among mixologists partly because it’s a perfect replacement for
citrus, the traditional sour or acidic component of cocktails. But its
robust flavour also allows the creation of complicated drinks with a “unique
“Looking at different forms of acidity in drinks can open up many doors for
flavour exploration,” explains Tony. “There's been a shift away from sweet
cocktails towards more savoury, umami-rich flavours. The acidity of vinegar
cuts through anything sweet, and helps develop this.”
Although it might seem novel and exciting, using vinegar in drinks actually
dates back hundreds of years. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the liquid was
often used to preserve fruits, and sweetened vinegar-based fruit syrups,
known as shrubs, are often often bartenders’ preferred way of using vinegar
today (putting “shrub” rather than “vinegar” on the menu also has the
welcome effect of not scaring away punters).
At Kings Cross restaurant and bar The Grain Store, a very unusual type of
vinegar features in the cocktail Rose Vinus Lupus – verjus, a popular
ingredient in the medieval kitchen and the favourite vinegar of Conigliaro,
who created the menu. Made from unripe grapes or crab apples, verjus died
out when lemons and limes began to be imported from abroad, but has recently
had something of a renaissance. It's easily available online, or, if you’re
feeling brave, you
can even make it at home.
Balanced with white wine and fragrant rose, the cocktail is a refreshing, yet
far from cloying, drink – ideal for a day in the garden when the sun finally
Rose Vinus Lupus recipe
A simplified version of the Grain Store cocktail.
15ml rose syrup
75ml Gewurtraminer white wine
Combine the syrup, verjus and wine in a wine glass filled with ice, gently
stir to combine and serve.