In late August, I stopped by the immense and ornate bar central to Carruthers Restaurant, as they were celebrating their one-year anniversary of bringing great food, great drink and great service to downtown Astoria.
In a year’s time Carruthers had plowed through many seasonal changes to its menu and the activity behind the bar has been no less adventurous. It was exactly a year ago that I featured the Bulleit-based Rye Witch, one of Carruthers’ first signature cocktails. Since then, David Licitra has taken over the bar menu from Laura Cherau, but the mixology shows no signs of becoming complacent anytime soon.
The Sunshower, a recent drink special, combines the heavy sweetness of dark rum with the effervescent, warm tartness of a mango/chile/finger lime shrub.
Shrubs have been all the rage lately, having appeared at the Harding Trading Co. in Cannon Beach as well as at the Seaside and Astoria outposts of Pilot House Distilling through their sister company Grumpy Dog Shrubs.
Shrubs are old-fashioned drinking vinegars which, according to the knowledgeable website Serious Eats, were popular in Colonial America as a way to preserve fruit. Shrubs usually combine fruit, vinegar, sugar, as well as herbs and spices, and tend to pack a punch that is both puckering and sweet.
The rediscovery of these syrups seems like the natural next-step evolution for any bar that prides itself on its infused spirits. While most shrubs are non-alcoholic, they are often right at home in a cocktail.
The Sunshower essentially takes its general form from the Mojito, though here the muddled herb is basil instead of mint. The salt and pepper on the rim calms down the aggressive bite of the vinegar. This is one last splash of summer in September before the skies draw dark again.
1 1/2 ounces dark rum
1 ounce Mango/Chile/Finger Lime Shrub*
1 ounce fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper
Wipe the lip of a cocktail glass with a slice of lime and dust the rim in salt and pepper. In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, muddle the basil with ice. Add the rum, lime juice and shrub, mix and pour into the rimmed glass.
*There are many resources online that will help you begin brewing and stewing your own shrubs.
Some general guidance offered by David Licitra of Carruthers is to begin with equal parts fruit, vinegar and sugar and heat the mixture to just below a boil—about 190 degrees. The infusion can then be left to marinate in the fridge for between three and 30 days before being strained and is ready to use. Licitra also noted that the discarded fruit is excellent for using in chutneys.
This particular shrub combined mangos, serrano and jalapeño peppers and finger limes, which are an odd Aussie citrus that forms little pearls that look like caviar as opposed to the petals of the regular supermarket-varietal limes. Regular limes would make a fine substitution.
If you are not up for waiting a week or month before trying your drinking vinegar, Grumpy Dog’s new Mandarin Habanero Shrub would make an interesting contribution to the mix.
—Recipe and advice courtesy of David Licitra, bar manager, Carruthers Restaurant, Astoria, Oregon