Drinking Vinegar: A Nuanced Beverage
For centuries, people around the world have been drinking vinegar to ward off ailments such as indigestion and chronic fatigue. In the United States, shrubs were used as a tonic in colonial times. But today’s drinking vinegar offers more than just relief from aches and pains. It’s a great alternative to sugary soft drinks and the fruit-forward flavors, whether tart or sweet, make downing the drink anything but medicinal.
Pok Pok Som
Chef Andy Ricker of Pok Pok fame created Pok Pok Som in 2005 for use in specialty cocktails. Customers loved it so much the restaurant began serving it with a splash of soda water on the rocks. Som comes in a variety of flavors, from ginger to apple to rhubarb and tamarind. Nothing is ever too sweet so even the sweeter-sounding flavors won’t make you feel as if you’re drinking syrup. New York City’s PDT recently used Pok Pok Som in a specialty cocktail. Ask for the Som Collins.
Drinking vinegar has long been a tradition in Japan, dating back to feudal times. Genki Su, created by Japanese-American Takako Shinjo, offers four varieties of handcrafted drinking vinegars flavored with fruit and herbs such as apple and shiso (a Japanese herb similar to mint) and sweetened with honey and Stevia, making them a low-calorie alternative to soft drinks.
Michigan-based McClary Brothers uses local herbs and fruit in its drinking vinegars, which are made in small batches. The apothecary-style bottles hold a selection of specialty flavors including pineapple and fennel, apple pie, and rhubarb. Seasonal flavors rotate throughout the year and most are tart with a bit of an earthy undertone. McClary suggests mixing the vinegars with bourbon, whiskey or rum for cocktails, or soda for a healthy tonic.