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Shrubs

Shrubs

Here at Charlene's Kitchen we have been obsessed with shrubs lately, as you've probably noticed from posts on our various social media accounts. However, not everyone knows what shrubs are or what they're used for.  Thus, we have decided to dedicate a whole blog post to shrubs!

In short, shrubs are sweetened vinegar-based syrups used to make cocktails (or mocktails!).

Shrubs originated in England in the 17th century and were originally used to preserve fruit as an alternative to using citrus juice. Shrubs fell out of popularity when home refrigeration became mainstream, but they resurged in popularity in 2011 and 2012. 

Shrubs are made by combining fruit (or vegetables or herbs) with vinegar and sugar. We prefer using turbinado sugar in our shrubs; raw sugar makes the final product better. Later, the pieces of fruit are strained out, leaving behind the delicious syrup!

Shrubs can be used to make an infinite variety of drinks. They can obviously be mixed with alcohol to make cocktails, but they can also be mixed with water or soda water to make mocktails! Mocktails are all the rage right now-- they're a great non-alcoholic option and much fancier than serving soda!

Charlene's Kitchen shrubs come in four varieties: Meyer lemon, cucumber, strawberry balsamic, and blueberry lavender. Our shrubs can be be part of a full Charlene Experience bar at your next party or they can simply be picked up to go in our store! Each 8 ounce bottle costs $18. Try it out the next time you place an order!

Blog Post by Emily Kiernan, newest member of Charlene's Kitchen

T.C. Williams Class of 2017 | Amherst Class of 2021

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Ice Ice Baby!

Ice Ice Baby!

In our previous blog posts, we've stressed the importance of quality spirits when crafting cocktails... We've touched upon display and gone over garnishes, however....

We still need to discuss ice! With the cocktail movement in full swing, it is not surprising that artisanal ice has become a trend. Although it's often overlooked, the proper ice can drastically alter your drinking experience.

Instead of pulling out the old ice cube trays in your freezer or buying a bag of ice, consider these tips the next time you're having happy hour in your living room:

1. Freeze distilled water instead of tap water. Have you ever taken ice out of the freezer only to discover it had that "freezer taste?" That taste is caused by the impurities found in tap water. The tedious distillation process removes those impurities from water - leaving you with distinctly pure tasting ice. At $1 per gallon, distilled water can fit in any budget. Find yours at your local grocery store.

2. Ring mold it. With Spring around the corner, I can think of nothing prettier than a crystal punch bowl filled with a glorious, refreshing drink that is chilled by a floral ice ring. Creating your own floral ice ring is so simple! You will only need three things: flowers, bundt cake pan, and distilled water. Add water to bundt pan, arrange flowers, and freeze. The floral ice ring can easily be loosened by dunking the bundt pan in a shallow dish of hot water. The mold should easily slide out when turned upside down. All of the flowering branches are in season right now, so set your sights on Quince Apple Blossoms (orchids, pansies, and herbs are also great options).

 

 

3. Flavor cubes. When you're looking to add more punch to your drinks, turn to a flavored ice cube. Try using rose water for a refreshing and exotic twist or coffee for a depth of flavor. Herbs muddled with ginger and mixed with distilled water would be perfect for a Spring mojito!

 

4. Varying sizes & shapes. Plastic ice cube trays yielding frozen rectangles are so no longer fashionable.  The cube and sphere are all the rage in today's artisanal ice rage. These cubes tend be larger in size thus producing a slower melting ice that keeps drinks colder longer.

Spring Fling

Spring Fling

Is it just me, or are you ready for Spring?

We've had enough of the snow, cold winds, and icy sidewalks, so we decided to introduce a taste of the upcoming season with our two latest cocktails: Hello Spring & Blueberry Bourbon Mintade. Besides this wretched weather, our inspiration stems from Charlene's need to revamp and recreate.

"Hello Spring" is a sublime mixture of celery, lemongrass, and Buddha hand simple syrup.

2.5 oz Few Gin

1/2 lemon juiced

1 oz Buddha hand simple syrup

1/3 stalk of celery

1/4 stalk of lemongrass

Fever Tree tonic water

Muddle celery and lemongrass until fragrant. Add gin, lemon juice, Buddha hand simple syrup, ice and shake vigorously. Top with tonic water and garnish.

Hello Spring with Starfruit Garnish
Hello Spring with Starfruit Garnish

Speaking of garnishes: no drink is complete without garnishment! Our first glass of Hello Spring is garnished with a slice of starfruit and a celery stalk (see above). We garnished our second glass of Hello spring with a celery stalk and a sprig of parsley (see below). Although these images depict the same exact cocktail, notice how the garnish changes the drink's personality.

Hello Spring
Hello Spring

Our other new Spring cocktail is the Blueberry Bourbon Mintade. It too was inspired by Charlene's experimental nature. It features Traverse City Whiskey, a craft whiskey Charlene discovered during a trip to Michigan, and muddled blueberries which give this drink it's rich coloring!

Blueberry Bourbon Mintade on counter
Blueberry Bourbon Mintade on counter
Blueberry Bourbon Mint Lemonade
Blueberry Bourbon Mint Lemonade

Crafting the Holiday Spirit

Crafting the Holiday Spirit

"When I hear the phrase 'craft cocktail', I immediately think of a few things: time, thought, details and quality ingredients. All are instrumental in the process of creating something spectacular. The end goals are to produce a beverage that is delicious and that you can be proud of - it's a work of art."- Vance Henderson, Beverage and Night Life Manager at Cuba Libre

Small Batch Bar
Small Batch Bar

As you all know, Charlene is fanatical about set-ups, quality, and presentation; these principles are also transferred to her bar cart. Here are a few ways to make your holiday bar extra festive:

1. Small batch liquors

Ditch the big bottles of standard liquors this season, and experiment with small batch liquors. Charlene is always on the hunt for a new distillery or local producer of craft liquors. These small batch liquors tend to have more nuanced flavors and will add visual appeal to your bar considering the unique bottles.

Traverse City Whiskey Co.
Traverse City Whiskey Co.
Big Bottle Hudson Baby Bourbon
Big Bottle Hudson Baby Bourbon
Monkey 47 Gin
Monkey 47 Gin

2. Craft mixers

A great craft mixer will kick your drink up several notches! Try making your own simple syrups at home or searching in your cabinets for other options (i.e. flavored honeys and pure maple syrup are a wonderful addition to a craft cocktail!).

Morris Kitchen, Maple, Maraschino
Morris Kitchen, Maple, Maraschino

3. Liquers

Liquers are similar to liquor, however, they are sweeter and are used to add flavor to cocktails. The latest liquer on Charlene's bar cart is Lillet, an orange infused aperitif wine. Try adding Lillet to your next gimlet or martini!

Lillet
Lillet

4. Glass opposed to plastic

Not only do sodas and tonics taste better out of glass bottles, they are significantly more carbonated than products that come out of plastic bottles. Charlene's favorite soda and tonic water are produced by Fever Tree. They also make a great ginger beer if you're making Moscow Mules!

Fever Tree Tonic & Peychaud's Bitters
Fever Tree Tonic & Peychaud's Bitters