Drinking vinegars have a long history with Asian and Middle Eastern cultures where they are consumed as “tonics.” They were part of the drinking habits of Colonial America, where they showed up in “shrubs,” and in 17th-century England were they were used to “doctor” the aroma of taxed spirits.
Derived from the medicinal cordials of the 15th century, the American version of the shrub had its origins in England where vinegar was used as a preservative in place of citrus juices and added to seasonal fruits and berries. These infusions were later strained and the liquid would be used to flavor liquids, fruit compotes or combined with brandy or rum.
Shrubs are enjoying a recent popularity and their vinegar bases are finding common use in the cocktail culture.
Jacob Fuhr began producing drinking vinegars after experimenting with a plum vinegar product he purchased at a Lowcountry Asian market.
The Jam Vinegar line is locally produced and bottled. The vinegars contain no additives, preservatives, or artificial flavorings and are currently available in peach, ginger, plum, red pear, pineapple and watermelon flavors. Local fruits are used when possible and Fuhr and his company are committed to continuing the relationship of supporting local farmers and using local products in the production runs of Jam.
The vinegars can be used in making flavored waters, cocktails, gastriques, vinaigrettes and simply to spark a bit of flavor in sauces, pastry fillings and even vegetables.
When Andy Ricker of Pok Pok Restaurant released Som drinking vinegars in 2013, its beverage category reached a record high. Popularity soared during the summer months as these refreshing beverages caught the eye of many creative bartenders.
NBC’s “Today Show” reported on the health benefits of drinking vinegars in August 2014.
Vinegar has been proven to improve blood sugar levels, has known antibacterial properties, and has been known to help in weight loss when used in place of commercial salad dressings.
The market for drinking vinegars is broad: health conscious, cocktail crowd, chefs, pastry chefs, parents looking for soft drink alternatives, cultures where this beverage is perceived as a “health tonic” and those looking to spike their plain bottled water.
Stores: Blackbird, Caviar & Bananas, Coastal Cupboard, goatsheepcow, Kiawah Wines, Mixson Market, Two Boroughs Larder
In cocktails: Cru Catering, Husk, McCrady’s, Edmund’s Oast, The Ordinary, The Park Cafe, The Bay Street Biergarten, Fat Hen, Pearlz Oyster Bar, Basico
$16 per bottle, suggested retail