By Liz Bares

In honor of Mardi Gras, I thought a nice cocktail would shake things up a bit.

This cocktail involves making a shrub syrup. Shrubs were popular in 17th and 18th century England and were typically made with rum or brandy mixed with sugar and the juice or rind of citrus fruits. The American version uses vinegar and was popular in colonial times. The vinegar is infused with fruit (typically berries), sugar and carbonated or still water.

A shrub can be drunk alone or mixed with other spirits and liquors for a fabulous cocktail. I made a cranberry shrub with apple cider vinegar. Mixed with sparkling apple cider from Normandy, lemon juice, gin, bitters and an herbal liquor, it is a delectable cocktail. You can purchase sparkling cider at the wonderful Premier Gourmet in Amherst. I purchased the bottle with the orange label — there are different ones available. I plan to make more shrubs this summer once berries begin to ripen.

Shrubs last about three months in the fridge. You could also substitute vodka for the gin. Enjoy!

Cranberry Shrub

12 oz. frozen cranberries

1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup apple cider or red wine vinegar (the vinegar will stand out, I used apple cider in my shrub because I was going to use apple cider as an alcohol)

1 teaspoon lemon zest

2 tablespoon lemon juice (I’d like to try a shrub with Meyer lemons. I wonder if it would be too sweet.)

Bring all ingredients to a simmer with 2 cups of water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir everything together every few minutes. Next, lower heat to low and cook about 5 minutes or until the berries have burst.

Strain mixture through a fine mesh sieve, pressing on solids to release the liquid. Discard pulp. Pour into a jar with a lid and chill for at least one hour before use.

Mardi Gras Cocktail  (makes one cocktail)

1/2 oz. gin

1/2 oz. herbal liquor (I used Carpano Antica Formula, a vermouth-like liquor)

1/2 oz. cranberry shrub

1/2 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice

2 dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters

1 oz. sparkling cider

Place everything BUT the cider into a shaker with some ice. Strain into glass filled with ice. Top off with sparkling cider, garnish with a lemon peel.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!