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Even though I am known among friends and coworkers for my affinity towards neat, top shelf brown liquors, I do indulge in a hot, boozy cider-based drink once or twice over the course of the fall or winter. If I'm out on a chilly night and see a chalkboard imploring me to come in for a hot cider, I'll more than likely find myself sitting on a bar stool, warming my bones.
Unfortunately for me, not every bar is equipped to serve hot drinks and, even though an air pot of hot cider is a handy compromise, sometimes it's still not practical. At my current job, cocktails flow constantly to the diners and three-deep crowd at either of the bars, so I have to pick and choose what I can feasibly ask the bartenders to make. Serving hot cider would gum up the works a bit too much.
Luckily cider, especially when mulled with warm spices like cinnamon, ginger, and clove, is just as delicious cold, so I decided to add a mulled cider shrub to my lineup of fall and winter beverages. Apple season starts in October and spices are more than welcome right up through the holidays, making the addition of this shrub a serious no-brainer.
The great thing about this particular shrub is that it's ready to consume immediately, as a lot of the vinegar's intensity is cooked out and it doesn't need time for fruit to develop its flavor. It's a lot more mild and sweet than most shrubs, and doesn't require anything but a splash of soda or a shot of your choice of booze to make a tasty beverage.
For a nonalcoholic treat, fill a 12-ounce glass with ice, add 3 ounces shrub, fill with seltzer, and stir gently. To make an alcoholic drink, aged rum, bourbon, and even cognac (Hennessy and cider shrub tastes like apple pie) make excellent accompaniments. Add a little black walnut or whiskey barrel-aged bitters to balance the sweetness, if you like. Or, if you have a big enough pot and are throwing a holiday party, a quadruple batch of this would make a great base for a punch bowl libation.
About the Author: Anna Markow is a pastry chef obsessed with doing things that no one else does and giving unusual ingredients their time to shine. You can follow her sometimes-pastry-related thoughts on Twitter @VerySmallAnna.