Bon Appétit (September 2015)
Do you have fond memories of it as a kid? Neither of us drank it all that much, but it still strikes a nostalgic chord. All of those candy-colored, sugary-sweet soft drinks -- grape, orange, cherry, lemon-lime -- take us back to slip-n-slides, Blockbuster nights at home, and grade-school pizza parties.
In absolutely the best way.
So there was a hint of childhood memories as we made the base for this sweet, grapey cocktail.
But there are a couple things about this drink that make it decidedly not for kids. The vodka, obviously.
But also? Vinegar.
Vinegar-based drinks are known as shrubs; we've made them a few times before, including a Spicy Shrub Paloma we made last year on our Night of A Thousand Cocktails, and this Cranberry-Lime Shrub Sparkler that we made for Thanksgiving a few years back.
A "shrub" is any thickened fruit concentrate (usually sweetened) mixed with vinegar. The sharp flavor of the vinegar cuts through the sweet fruit syrup, acting as a nice counterbalance.
What's really incredible about this Concord Grape Shrub is just how intensely grape-tasting the syrup is on its own. It's just a mix of grapes, sugar and water. But because you use Concord grapes, which have a much more concentrated flavor than other varieties, the resulting syrup is incredibly, intensely grapey. It doesn't taste like grapes; it tastes grape-flavored. Like a Jolly Rancher or, well, grape soda. We just couldn't believe it was natural flavor.
Anyway, to make this cocktail, you mix the grape syrup with vodka and vinegar, shake, and top with club soda. (We thought the rosemary got completely lost here. It's a nice idea. But if you actually want to taste it, you need to either triple the amount you use, or just use rosemary sprigs in the glasses as a garnish. Or leave it our altogether.)
The result? It's good! We loved the vinegar-sweet combo. It's definitely not the sort of drink you want a second glass of. And perish the thought of drinking this with any food. But it's great for a fun, interesting party cocktail. And you can't beat that violet hue.
So kick back, turn on some Animaniacs, and sip this cool grape drink.
Just don't tell the kids.
(This photo: Bon Appétit/Zach DeSart)
Makes 4 Servings
1 cup Concord grapes
⅓ cup sugar
16 rosemary leaves
8 ounces vodka
2 ounces apple cider vinegar
12 ounces club soda
Bring grapes, sugar, and ½ cup water to a boil in a medium pot, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced to ½ cup, 10–12 minutes. Strain grape syrup into a small bowl and let cool.
For each cocktail, combine 4 rosemary leaves, 2 oz. vodka, 1 oz. grape syrup, and ½ oz. apple cider vinegar in a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Cover and shake until shaker is frosty, about 30 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice; add 2–3 oz. club soda.