A drinking vinegar is an infusion of fruit, vinegar and a sugar. They were the Gatorade of Roman legions and the pause that refreshed for Ruth in the Old Testament. The shrub, a cocktail made with drinking vinegar, was popular in Colonial America.
Drinking vinegars are rooted in the past but are now the beverage of the moment. Both chefs and bartenders have rediscovered drinking vinegars, which can be found as gastriques or in cocktails.
The vinegars are sipped straight, diluted with water, carbonated with seltzer or used as a base for cocktails. Chef Andy Ricker of Pok Pok Restaurant in Portland, Ore., and New York City popularized them on his Thai street food menu and has produced a line of drinking vinegars called Pok Pok Som.
You can find Pok Pok Som at Southern Season in Mount Pleasant, 730 Coleman Blvd. It's priced at $14.99 for a 16-ounce bottle. Flavors include ginger, tamarind, Thai basil, pomegranate and apple.
H&L Asian Market at 5300 Rivers Ave. also sells drinking vinegars. They can be p urchased in single-serve pouches (ready-to-drink) for $.79 and are available in apple, pineapple and plum flavors.
Pok Pok Som is a welcome companion to spicy food, Asian food and as a cocktail base. It is a refreshing drink in summer and many consider it a drink of "detoxification." Kirstin Hunt, specialty food buyer for Southern Season in Mount Pleasant, reports "strong sales with a younger age group," "the curious" and those familiar with food TV (where Pok Pok has been featured).
Kelly Slagle's New York Times quote is all so true: "Vinegar's the Zamboni for the tongue."
The Gin Joint will bring back shrub cocktails in March. Husk serves drinking vinegars on their "joggin juice" menu.