All photos by Amanda Schuster
The plum is a fruit often associated with summer, however certain varieties are best in the fall. Sweet, autumn plums are in season right now. They can be so sweet, sticky and juicy that they are sometimes a bit of a challenge to eat raw, unless you are fully-bibbed and standing over a sink. They lend themselves well to baked desserts or concentrated into jams, of course. However, seeing these bulbous, red-amber lovelies calling out from the farmer’s market bins got me wondering – how can one drink their delectable nectar? Is there such thing as a plum smash? Indeed there is, but better yet, how about using a few for a shrub?
Shrub: /SHrəb/ (noun): 1. a woody plant that is smaller than a tree and has several main stems arising at or near the ground. 2. a sweet and sour liquid made from fruit that contains both syrup and vinegars.
One of the joys of shrubs is they do double-duty in cocktails as both an acid and a sweetener, a more vinegary rendition of a fresh juice sour mix. Also makes a great component to salad dressings, and if one isn’t feeling too boozy, it’s a flavorful treat simply added to soda water or ginger ale.
Below is a recipe for the shrub. Since we here at Alcohol Professor are always feeling boozy, cocktail recipes to follow. The names of the cocktails are all inspired by music, as they were mixed in a melodious autumn afternoon-early evening light.
Plum Shrub (note: process takes a couple of days)
macerated plum syrup
Adapted from a recipe by Honestly Yum
3 small fresh plums, cut up into large chunks
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup red wine or sherry vinegar (I used sherry)
¼ cup cider vinegar
Place the plums and sugar in a non-reactive bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hrs to macerate. Strain what is now a plummy syrup into a new bowl, pressing plums to release their final sputter of juice. Discard the plum flesh (you’re mostly left with only skin by now anyway), and scrape that layer of clingy sugar granules into the new bowl. Add the vinegars and whisk! Whisk! Whisk! until all the sugar is dissolved. At this point, you have yourself a Shrub. Although it will taste even better in a few days. Store it in an airtight jar or bottle for use.
The Color of the Dream I Had
A cocktail inspired by “One Rainy Wish” by Jimi Hendrix. Wouldn’t you know, this cocktail is somehow the color of a golden rose!
3 oz young genever (Diep 9 Belgian genever has just the right soft flavors, but another would work)
Autumn plum shrub!
1 oz plum shrub
1 heaping bar spoon lavender syrup
couple dashes mole bitters
Shake all ingredients with ice until well-chilled. Strain into chilled coupe glass. No garnish. That’s it! Simple, delicious sipping.
The sherry vinegar in the shrub twirls with the nutty, herbal flavors of Madeira, with aged tequila leading the dance. Sorel hibiscus liqueur adds some exotic spice to pick up the beat and give it a dusty rose hue.
2 oz tequila añejo (I used 2012 NY International Spirits Competition winner Milagro)
½ oz good, nutty, dry Madeira (in this case, Sandeman Rainwater)
½ oz Jack From Brooklyn Sorel liqueur
¼ oz plum shrub
plum slice for garnish
large format ice
Stir the liquids in a mixing glass with ice until well-chilled. Strain into Old Fashioned glass with cube or sphere. Garnish with plum slice if desired (that can be tough to pull off unless it’s a very firm plum.)
Darker With the Day
Imagine Nick Cave playing you out as the clouds gather on the horizon and your tongue feels the tang of vinegar with a nip of spicy ginger.
2 oz dark rum (Ron Diplomatico Reserva recommended)
¾ oz plum shrub
spicy ginger beer
Add rum and shrub to ice-filled Collins glass. Top with ginger beer. Did you manage to get a clean slice of that plum? Use it here for garnish.