This week we had the opportunity to attend and showcase our shrubs at the amazing Women in Beer party/fundraiser hosted by local favorites Pike Brewing. They always put on a super fun event full of talented folks making delicious food and drink and this time was no exception. Craft beer from all over the state was flowing freely, foods flavored with or meant to accompany beer were being relished, and several local craft spirits (what happens when you distil beer) were giving out tastings. My favorite bite was a self made beer float with Balleywood Creamery's chocolate malt ice cream and an espresso stout from a brewery I didn't get the name of (but if you did please leave it in the comments because I seriously need more of that in my life).
In honor of the event, and because I know outdoor grilling party season is here, we made a punch. Now, most of you have probably seen these sorts of 'beer punch' recipes where you dump a 750 mL of cheap vodka in with a 12 pack of Bud and a bunch of lemonade. That sort of beverage has its place, I suppose, but around here we like things a little more flavor full and a lot more refined. I mean, just check out the vintage glass dispenser we brought. So classy.
Classic punch form is based on linearly progressive ratios of 5 ingredients. Which is to say 1 part sour, 2 parts sweet, 3 parts strong and 4 parts weak plus spice to taste. Given these ratios you can see that classic punches, which predate the cocktail by around 100 years, could be quite high in alcohol content. Not that that's a bad thing, but it doesn't lend itself as well to the style of 'sip all day at the bbq' type of punch I prefer. While I use all the same flavors of a classic punch, I like to tweak the ratios and let some of the ingredients play double duty.
2 parts shrub: this is both sour and sweet
1 part spirit: this is the strong part
4 parts beer: this is the weak part and also add some spice/bitter
4 parts seltzer: also weak
1 or 2 pieces of fruit or herbs: citrus add sour and both add spice/bitter
One final note on making punch. It's something that's best started a few hours before you plan to serve it. While it's no longer necessary to condition the spirits, it does enhance the flavor greatly if you blend the shrub and spirit together with the fruit/herbs ahead of time to let all the alcohol soluble flavors get into the mix. 2-3 hours is ideal, but you can get away with just 1 if you're pressed for time.
With the above ratios you can experiment with all kinds of flavor profiles. Changing the spirit and the beer will give you very different results. For example here are two options with our Blood Orange shrub. Blood Orange shrub with a nutty brown ale, rye and a lemon would be rich and delicious. Blood Orange shrub with gin, a blond ale and rosemary would also be delicious, but a bit little lighter and much more herbaceous.
For the Women in Beer event, this is what we did.
Queen Mab in Her Cups
makes around 1.5 gallons punch
32 ounces Apricot Cardamom shrub
16 ounces Ide Hour Whiskey from Seattle Distilling, or your favorite sweet whiskey
64 ounces Naughty Nellie beer from Pike Brewing, or your prefered blond ale
2 liters of Seltzer
1 lemon organic if available, or well scrubbed
1 orange organic if available, or well scrubbed
Cut the lemon and orange into quarters, and then each quarter into 3 or 4 pieces. Put in a large jar of at least 1/2 gallon capacity. Add to this the whiskey and shrub. Shake well to combine everything and let it rest at room temperature for 1 hour at minimum, and up to 4.
When you're ready to serve, get out your punch bowl or drinks dispenser. If you have time before hand, make frozen water balloons so you have extra big pieces of ice. Just peel off the latex and give the ice a rinse before you add it to the punch. DO NOT DO THIS IF YOU OR YOUR GUESTS HAVE LATEX ALLERGIES. You can also use a silicone ring or square mold that will fit into your punch bowl. I like having the big ice because it melts much slower, so the punch stays cold longer and doesn't get watery.
Add the punch base (shrub/spirit/fruit mixture) to the chosen vessel. Add the beer and seltzer and stir gently to combine. Add the ice, as gently as possible since the punch vessel will be very full and you want to keep as much of the carbonation as possible. Drink deep and enjoy your outdoor event. Also, this is still around 7-10% abv so make sure you don't forget to drink water, and don't drive under its delicious influence.
This cocktail came about because of a super fun photo shoot I was doing for this site. We needed to shoot me making drinks and handling bottles, and somehow this drink was born. We had some fresh mint on the bar top, for color and as set dressing, but it looked so inviting. And I had about 1/3 of a whole lemon sitting on the cutting board. I knew lemon and rhubarb were a perfect match, because we had just made the Queen Bee and who doesn't love lemon and mint together?
So I threw them in the bottom of my shaker and muddled them well. Then I added a healthy dose of the Simply Rhubarb shrub and swirled it around. A quick taste let me know I was onto something. The lemon played bridge between the mint and the rhubarb, letting them play better together than I hoped. Meanwhile the sweetness of the shrub subdued the frostiness of the mint letting more herbal/green notes come forward.
I knew a more assertive spirit, like gin, would wreck the delicate balance working here so I reached for vodka. Now, for the most part I'm not a vodka drinker. I have such a love affair with the more pronounced spirits that I don't often reach for it. It is, after all, the color black of the spirits world. But here, I was able to bring in a local craft vodka with a creamy mouth feel and subtle notes of vanilla custard. It rounded the edges off the shrub/mint/lemon mixture and brought them into a perfect harmony. After a good shake and a double strain, we tasted.
Grassy green flavors with a refreshing minty finish, with a good strong rhubarb middle and notes of bitterness from the lemon peel. This was really refreshing and delightfully different. I hope you get a chance to make this soon.
2-3 sprigs fresh mint
.5 ounce lemon juice plus a strip of peel, or about 1/3 a lemon
1 ounce Simply Rhubarb shrub
2 ounces local craft vodka
In a shaker, muddle mint and lemon. Add shrub and vodka and fill with ice. Shake well, about 20 seconds or until the shaker is quite frosty. Double strain into a chilled bucket or cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge and one bruised mint leaf.