We’ve fallen and we can’t get up, dear Boozers. Autumn appears to have truly arrived, as leaves of every color are whipped around in a stiff wind and the storm windows are shut against the chill. And apples, apples are everywhere, stacked up in untidy piles on the kitchen counter, challenging us in their cheerful hues of red and green: “We dare you to do something with us besides make pie.”
Oh, we’ll take that challenge, and we’ll make a fresh apple shrub out of it. Some of you might call it a drinking vinegar, but the term “shrub” sounds weirdly sexier, in a Colonial sort of way, and we all know how Ben Franklin felt about apples. Not only that, it couldn’t be easier to make, because a shrub is little more than fruit, vinegar, and sugar, simmered into a lovely spicy syrup (there’s a cold-brew method as well, which we will detail below, but it was nippy in the kitchen and we wanted to warm up). When diluted with club soda, it’s a perfect mixer for a fall evening by the fireplace. Gather round it with your friends and boost the immune system at the same time. Cheers.
It’s so easy to make a shrub that we decided to make a tasty garnish as well — a caraway seed brittle, to be precise. Brittles are not always as easy as they look, but basically it’s simply a cup of water, two cups of sugar, a small knob of butter, and a couple of tablespoons of caraway seeds cooked over medium heat until it becomes thick and syrupy (if you stop cooking too soon, you’ll end up with a caramel). Whisk in a teaspoon of baking soda, then spread it out onto an oiled baking sheet, sprinkle a little sea salt over the top, and let it harden. Voilà.
to make the fresh apple shrub:
3 apples, grated
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup sugar (we used maple sugar)
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
a pinch of salt
Put all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer gently for 30 minutes. Strain, pressing grated apple thoroughly to get out all the liquid. Cool completely; can be refrigerated for up to two weeks. To cold brew, simply place all the ingredients in a mason jar and put it in the fridge for 4 or 5 days, then strain as directed.
to make the Fall Classic:
1.5 ounces fresh apple shrub
2 ounces rye whiskey (we used Catoctin Creek Organic Roundstone Rye)
1/2 ounce fennel or anise liqueur (we used Don Ciccio & Figli Finocchietto)
chilled club soda
caraway seed brittle for garnish (optional, but just right)
Combine first three ingredients in a tall glass with ice and stir well. Top with club soda, stir briskly, and garnish with caraway brittle.
Other options: While we like rye in this drink, it also works well with bourbon or rum. Some anise liqueurs that will work well include absinthe, galliano, ouzo, pastis, and sambuca.