The kitchen is a no-fly zone, where space to craft a punch or charcuterie spread has to be carefully usurped at the margins of the vast empire. The best time to sneak in is when my father is updating his tabulation of butter used thus far. A true student of the tradition of Julia Child, he delights in giving us a painfully honest breakdown of precisely how the sausage was made, as waistlines strain against belts. The only time I had ever missed my family’s Thanksgiving before was to share a Turducken with a friend who was stranded and alone under house arrest. Now, thousands of miles from Cleveland in Ecuador, the reality of the glamorous traveler’s life came with a complimentary jar of maraschino cherries.
Due in large part to the cocktail renaissance of the last few years, shrubs have come screaming into the present from an era when the United States were but a gleam in the Founders’ eyes. Shrubs are an old method of preservation, and when done properly, you can enjoy the fruits of summer’s labors in the dead of winter. They’re used in cocktails in a similar fashion to syrups. The component parts are a subject, a sweetener and vinegar. We’ll break down how to do a basic shrub and what the rules are, so that you can break them when you make your own. There’s a bit of science involved behind the scenes, and the whole process is based in fermentation, but don’t let that shake you. Making a shrub is as easy as discovering penicillin, when you get down to it.