Friday, May 30, 2014

A Spring Punch to whet your whistle!

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

I’ve been playing around with Shrubs as of late.  No, not the ones growing out in the garden, but Shrub Cocktails, lip smacking bursts of flavor that stimulate hunger. 

Maybe it’s the change of season that does it.  My palate needs something quenching, bold and exciting to break it out of the doldrums of winter.  Enter the Shrubb.  You may note that I spelled Shrubb with two B’s instead of the usual one.  That answer is quite simple.  When a Shrubb is created from ingredients that hail from Martinique or Guadeloupe, French protectorates, they add an extra B.  When the Shrub is from anyplace else- the USA or Europe for example- there is only one B.  Other than that I cannot explain why there are two B’s and one B.  It’s just unexplainable.

The Shrubb punch that I created is slightly tangy from the use of vinegar.  In the days before refrigeration, vinegar and sugar were combined with the conjunction of citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and limes to become sweet syrup.  This syrup that is little more than equal parts of citrus, sweetener and vinegar acts as a powerful preservative against decay.

When a sailor wants to stave off scurvy, he will make a liquid combination of lime juice, vinegar (apple cider works really nicely) and cane sugar.  The cane sugar preserves the lime and the vinegar acts as a suspension- allowing the Shrub to last for months upon end.

But why go through the long process of making a Shrubb from scratch when you can just open a bottle of Clement Creole Shrubb.  This gorgeous and aromatic product is a combination of opulent citrus fruits and cinnamon, cloves, vanilla and nutmeg.  Wine vinegar or your choice of vinegar from Balsamic to Sherry to plain old cider vinegar plays into a Shrubb (also Shrubs, but I’m getting ahead of myself here) by offering the cleansing abilities of vinegar on the entire digestive system.  As distilled white vinegar is brilliant against a pipe blockage in your home’s plumbing system, drinking vinegar is equally effective in keeping the drinker regular.  The Asians have been drinking vinegar for thousands of years for the their digestive tract.  Shrubbs or drinking vinegars are incredibly versatile in many different kinds of cocktails and in punch. 

When you visit places like St. Barts in the French West Indies, nearly every home, restaurant and shop makes their own “Ponch” or punch- liberally treated to these Shrubbs.  And when the imbiber makes his Ponch with both Creole Shrubb and Rhum Agricole like the Neisson Blanc Rhum Agricole.  Neisson is mostly unknown in America and that’s too bad because it’s so distinctive in flavor.  The sugar cane is grown up on Mount Pelée in Martinique in the black colored soil from thousands of years of volcanic activity.  The freshly cut sugarcane harvested by hand and then crushed immediately before the cane sours in the extremely hot temperatures. 

And in keeping with my desire to make my punch as memorable as possible, I’ve included what I consider to be one of the best all natural grapefruit syrups on the market, the Fruitations Rio Red Grapefruit Soda and Cocktail Syrup.  This hand made product is so lip smacking that it’s even perfect with plain seltzer water instead of liquor in a gorgeous mock-tail.  

I want to share my secret for punch.  That is always add a healthy pinch of either fleur de sel or Kosher salt over the top of your citrus juices to bring out the flavors and give a bit of spark to the cocktails.  A chef finishes a sauce with a bit of salt for balance so you should try and experiment with this technique as well!

 Isle de France Ponch (Punch)
1 liter bottle of Neisson Rhum Agricole Blanche
1 750 ml Bottle of Creole Shrubb from Clement
2 bottles Fruitations Rio Red Grapefruit Soda and Cocktail Syrup
10 or so shakes of Bitter Truth Creole Bitters (essential!)
2 liter bottles of unflavored seltzer water
Large cube of ice
Fleur de Sel
Cut oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes

Add all the ingredients over the large ice cube and stir well
Finish with the bitters over the top and stir some more
Add the cut fruit over the top
Sprinkle about a tablespoon of Fleur de Sel (or Kosher Salt) over the top to finish…


Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.

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