Here's a unique gift for your home mixologist friend or that person who's trying to kick the commercial soda habit: a vanilla-ginger-pear shrub. No, we're not talking about botany but rather a bottle of sweet and tangy drinking vinegar. Made with fruit, vinegar, and sugar, shrub syrups can be used to punch up a cocktail, a glass of sparkling water, or even a bowl of ice cream. They're also fun and easy to make at home.
This recipe takes advantage of seasonal pears and combines them with ginger and vanilla for a syrup that's equally delicious with bourbon, sparkling wine, ginger ale and fizzy water. I used red d'Anjou pears for this batch but other varieties will work, as long as they are sweet and ripe.
Makes about 2 cups
2 cups finely chopped pear (about 2 large)
1 teaspoon chopped peeled fresh ginger
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 pint apple cider vinegar
2 cups granulated sugar (or less, to taste)
1-quart glass jar with lid for infusing
Glass jar or bottle for storing
Sterilize a 1-quart jar by submerging it in a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the jar using canning jar lifters or tongs.
Place the pears, ginger, and vanilla in the jar. Heat the vinegar just to a boil and pour it into the jar. Wipe the rim with a clean cloth. Cap the jar tightly; if using a metal lid, place a piece of wax paper or parchment paper between the jar and the lid to prevent corrosion from the vinegar.
Store the jar in a cool, dark place such as a cupboard or refrigerator for at least 4 days, shaking it daily. The longer it infuses, the stronger the flavors will be.
Strain the vinegar through a fine-mesh strainer, cheesecloth, or coffee filter. Combine the vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and let cool. Pour into the original, re-sterilized jar or another sterilized jar or bottle.
Store the shrub in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
• Basic cocktail: Pour 2 ounces bourbon and 1 ounce shrub into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Top with club soda.
• Non-alcoholic soda: Start with 1 part shrub to 6 parts sparkling water. Taste and adjust quantities as desired.
• The shrub may also be drizzled over fresh fruit, ice cream, and other desserts.