a new Christmas cocktail

christmas cocktail

At this time of year you might be thinking of what to make for parties as your signature Christmas cocktail or what to serve for non drinkers on the big day. I served this shrub with white port and tonic as a welcome cocktail at my last supper club. Everyone went wild for it. I think its something not many people have tried but it is so easy to make and a perfect drink for a festive party as an alternative to mulled wine or gin and tonic.

What is a shrub?

Shrubs have been cropping up on cocktail bar menus for the last few years but have been drunk for thousands of years. You can use almost any fruit in them, I love making a roasted plum or rhubarb shrub when I have a glut. They’re also known as ‘drinking vinegars’ and are a great way to add sournesss and fruit flavour to drinks. The sourness means they are a welcome relief from overly sweet non-alcoholic offerings but they work just as well with a G&T or, in this case with white port and tonic.

The apple cider vinegar also helps on the health front, be sure to buy one with the mother in the bottle – a cloudy probiotic that helps encourage good bacteria in your gut. In a nutshell, the more good bacteria in your gut, the better you’ll be at fighting infection. People are increasingly linking gut health with mental wellbeing too.

Port and tonic?

We went to Portugal on holiday this year and I cheated on my usual G&T with what the locals were drinking – white port and tonic. White port is made in exactly the same way as the darker port you may be used to seeing, but is made from white grapes rather than red. Port being so Christmassy, I think this is the perfect bottle to add to your bar cart or give to a friend who knows their drinks this winter.

The perfect gift

The shrub makes a great gift for Christmas – save the empty apple cider vinegar bottle and fill it with the shrub. Label it with instructions on how to use it and give it along with some posh tonic, I love Luscombe Devon tonic.

To make the cranberry shrub (makes about 750ml/3 US cups)

250ml (1 US cup) boiling water

300g (10 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries

150g (three quarters of a cup) sugar

250ml (1 US cup) apple cider vinegar

To make the shrub:

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the water, cranberries, sugar until the mixture starts to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the cranberries split and become mushy. This takes about 10 minutes.
  2. Put a sieve over a large bowl. Pour the cranberries and juices into the sieve. Press down with a silicone spatula or spoon to get the juice out of the berries.
  3. Keep the cranberry mush that is left in the sieve. It is great on yoghurt or porridge or used as cranberry sauce. Keep it in the fridge for 5 days or freeze it.
  4. Add the vinegar to the cranberry syrup , mix and transfer the shrub into a clean bottle or jar, cover, and keep in the fridge – it will last for months. I use the bottle that the apple cider vinegar came in to hold mine.

To make a christmas cocktail

  1. Half fill a tumbler with ice.
  2. Add a pretty paper straw, a wedge of orange or lime and a stem of rosemary.
  3. Pour around 60ml (2 ounces) of chilled white port, bourbon, gin or vodka into the glass (or leave this out to make an alcohol-free drink)
  4. Add 20ml (just under 1 ounce) of shrub then top up with your favourite tonic. I love Luscombe Devon tonic water.
  5. Stir and taste and add more shrub to suit.

Thank you to Luscombe who supplied the tonic water for my supper club at At The Kitchen and to Craig Robertson for taking the photos. Follow me on Instagram and Facebook to get my event news and my recipes as I cook them.

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