We Made the Best F*!@ing Non-Alcoholic Cocktail Ever
By Amy Virginia Buchanan
A red and green cocktail might be cliché for the holidays, which is why I say you can make this any day.
When I was charged with creating a non-alcoholic cocktail for a wintry Secret Supper, my thoughts turned to a vinegar-based botanical drink I had in Lawrence, Kansas. Made by beverage specialist Reagan Petrehn, cofounder of the bakery and cafe 1900 Barker, that shrub, with its herbaceous and bold flavors, became the inspiration for my riff. Petrehn graciously hopped on a call with me, providing guidance on everything from ratios to where to find tartaric acid. (“Amazon?” He offered. I countered with a but I need it today, and he said: “It’s New York! You can buy anything you need in New York. Ask Facebook - someone will know.” And that’s how I found myself at Kalustyan’s.)
Initially, I was looking for a fruit native to Japan in line with the event’s theme, but when I saw the Pok Pok Som Pomegranate Drinking Vinegar on the shelf at Whole Foods, inspiration struck. After that, I went straight to the herb section and started to sniff. As the rosemary hit my nose, everything fell into place. Rosemary has a strong flavor that holds its own against pomegranate, and also nicely overwhelms the olfactory senses when presented as a garnish. I could just see the jewel green of the elegant herb laying pretty in a coupe glass amidst a deep red cocktail.
Prepping for events is serious business, but it's hard to keep a straight face when you're shake-shake-shaking.
Note how the rosemary seems to just be "hanging out" in the coupe. So chill.
I wanted to make a cocktail with a satisfying mouth feel, with a refreshing balance between dry and sweet. In the same way that a booze-forward cocktail is sipped slowly, it was important that the flavors be aggressive enough to encourage sipping rather than simply downing quickly. Armed with a few extra vinegars to play with against the syrupy sweetness of the pomegranate, I mixed and tasted again and again.
The tartaric acid proved to have an effect similar to that of an abrasive citrus fruit, but without the taste. In the same way that the sherry vinegar offered dryness, the tartaric acid brought out the pucker.
Rosemary Pomegranate Shrub
Rosemary-infused Simple Syrup
Prepare in a 16 oz. Mason jar
8 oz. Raw sugar
5 Sprigs fresh rosemary
3 oz. Water
3 oz. Pomegranate juice (no sugar added)
1 oz. Rosemary-infused simple syrup
1 oz. Pok Pok Som Pomegranate Drinking Vinegar
Dash of sherry vinegar
Pinch of tartaric acid
A sprig or two of fresh rosemary (for garnish)
- You'll want to make your rosemary simple syrup at least an hour in advance, so the rosemary flavor has time to settle in. Even better if it's the day before. Grab a Mason jar and fill it halfway with sugar (I use raw sugar, as I find it to be a bit earthy and that's nice in this drink). Whack the rosemary against your hand a few times to release those aromatic essential oils, then throw the sprigs into the jar. Fill the rest of the jar with hot water before lidding. Give the jar a good shake until the sugar dissolves and then let sit.
- Use a jigger to measure your ingredients into the larger tin of a Boston shaker. The sherry vinegar should be added to taste, and thought of as something to dry out and open up the overall feel and taste of your cocktail. Start small with your dash but be willing to add a bit more if you think it needs it. This is your cocktail after all.
- Fill the shaker halfway with ice, cap it off with the smaller cup, and shake aggressively about ten times. You'll want to feel and hear the ice going up against the two ends like a piston. The cups should feel very cold in your hands when you are done.
- Strain your cocktail into a coupe glass. Serve it up and garnish with a sprig of rosemary (that you have whacked against your hand a few times) to ensure a full sensory experience.
If you would like to make your cocktail of the alcoholic persuasion, I would suggest using vodka. Rum would be too sweet, gin botanicals would battle the rosemary flavor, and whiskey isn’t even an option.