If you're a long time reader of the blog, then chances are high that you've heard me talk about my love of vinegar. No, you don't need reading glasses. Yes, I said I love vinegar. I'm weird, I know. For those of you who are newer readers, I'll give you the 10 second rundown. Basically, when I was younger, I loved drinking spoonfuls of apple cider vinegar. Somewhere along the way I discovered that my strange habit actually had incredible health benefits, so I kept drinking it. As I got older, I started changing the way I drank it, but I definitely didn't stop drinking it. I found out that you could make it into a fruit syrup, add a little seltzer water and have yourself a delicious soda. But even better, I discovered you could put into a cocktail. Mind. Blown. Game. Changed. These vinegar cocktails, better known as 'shrubs', definitely aren't for everyone and they certainly aren't something to be served at a Friday night rager (trust me when I say that you do not want to chug these, and you probably also don't want more than 1 or 2 in a sitting). However, they are a fun and festive cocktail that's perfect if you're looking for a unique craft cocktail that you can savor and enjoy. And don't be thrown off by the vinegar... there's enough sugar in this recipe to mask the majority of the acidity and simply leave you with a cocktail that has a tangy kick to it. Word on the street is that they're this Halloween's witches brew of choice and may even be making an entrance at Thanksgiving, but you didn't hear that from me....
SQUASH + SAGE SHRUB COCKTAILS
yields 4 cocktails
1 small butternut squash
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh sage, roughly shredded
Vodka, rum or bourbon
Ginger-ale, cream soda or ginger beer
Garnishes: maple syrup, sugar, fresh sage, vanilla beans
Bake the squash as you normally would (cut in half, face down in a pan with a little water, 350 degrees for about 45 minutes). When it has cooked and cooled, scoop the inside out of the skin. Scoop 2 cups into a large glass jar (or another container that has a tight lid), then set aside the remaining squash for other uses. The squash doesn't have to be pureed or smooth as it will breakdown with the sugar and vinegar.
Then add the cup of sugar. Stir it until it is well incorporated. Place the lid on the jar or container and store in the fridge overnight (for at least 12 hours).
Next, add in the vinegar and the sage. Place the lid back on and give it a few good shakes. Refrigerate for another 3-5 hours.
Finally, strain the mixture through a fine sieve into an airtight container. Store in the fridge until you're ready to mix up the cocktails.
To make a cocktail, dip the rim of a glass into maple syrup then sugar. Add a couple of ice cubes, 2 tablespoons of your choice of liquor and 5 tablespoons of shrub mixture. Stir, then top off with ginger-ale or your choice of bubbly. Garnish with fresh sage and a vanilla bean "stirrer" (aka half of a vanilla bean). Serve immediately.
Canned or fresh pumpkin puree can be used in place of the squash.
For a non-alcoholic version, simply skip the liquor.