What are Drinking Vinegars?
Drinking vinegars (or "vinegar tonics"), such as shrubs, switchels, oxymels, etc., have grown quite popular in recent years. But people have been imbibing vinegar-based drinks for thousands of years.
Fermentation is an age-old means of preserving the seasonal bounty. Wine is a fermented product of the seasonal grape harvest, for example. This is an alcoholic fermentation; the conversion of sugar into ethanol and carbon dioxide. Unless wine is securely closed up and kept away from oxygen, it will move on to the next step in the fermentation process, vinegar. Vinegar is basically "soured" alcohol. Acetobacter converts ethanol to acetic acid in the presence of oxygen.
Vinegar's acidity can also help preserve other foods. You're probably familiar with at least a few classic vinegar-pickled vegetables. Lacking refrigeration, the Romans and American colonists utilized vinegar to preserve excess fruit by making shrubs (derived from the Arabic word “sharāb,” which means “to drink”). The fruit was first macerated (softening fruit in sugar), then covered with vinegar to prevent spoilage, and then the remaining fruit solids were strained out of the vinegar syrup mixture.
Although refrigeration is pretty easy to come by in developed nations nowadays, drinking vinegars are experiencing a bit of a revival due to a few different reasons. People's palates are expanding to appreciate their tart sourness, they're choosing to drink less alcohol, the continued "libation curiosity" propelled mostly by the "craft beer culture", and the increasing talk about vinegar's possible health benefits.
At Waldmet Cellars, we love our drinking vinegars and experiment with many different flavor combinations. Although no health claims are made about our offerings, we can guarantee that they're perfect to quench your thirst, or serve as a tasty alcohol-free libation to help unwind at the end of the day. We will even be keeping a tap set aside specifically for seltzer to mix with our shrubs before serving. They can even be used to make some of the best vinaigrettes to ever dress a salad.