With spring on the horizon, it’s high time Phoenix drinkers embrace the shrub, lest Valley bartenders lose all faith that they can sell more than a handful of the tart, highly refreshing tonics. Candidly, shrubs are solutions of sugar and vinegar, and were historically used to preserve fruit, but “vinegar” won’t sell on a cocktail menu. “Shrub” still just might.
On Counter Intuitive’s current Western-themed menu, an apricot shrub puts a bit of pop in the Real Bullets! cocktail, named for a line in The Three Amigos. In a shaking tin, combine 1/2 oz. apricot shrub*, 2 oz. rye whiskey, 1/2 oz. sweet and herbal Averna liqueur, 1/2 oz. lemon juice, 1/2 oz. simple syrup and 1 egg white, first shaking without ice, and then with ice (achieving a perfectly foamy lid atop the drink). Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a coupe glass, express a lemon peel across its surface, and serve with a dehydrated lemon wheel. The result is an intensely refreshing, harmonious cocktail of ripe fruit flavor and tartness – and we owe it all to vinegar.
*To make the apricot shrub, soak 1 cup of dried apricots in 1 1/4 cups of boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove apricots from water and pulse them in a blender with 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup sherry vinegar and 1/2 cup Champagne vinegar until lightly blended – a paste-like texture is too far. Finely strain the mixture, pressing with a spoon until all liquid is separated. Discard apricot pulp and refrigerate the liquid.
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