We’re now a gardening podcast. Joking! This week we talk cocktail shrubs, sweetened vinegar-based syrups, often infused with fruit juice, herbs and spices for use in cocktails and mocktails. Charlie Berkinshaw of Element Shrub joins us to share his wealth of knowledge.
Charlie of Element Shrub
My name is Charlie Berkinshaw. I grew up in Annapolis and live in Arlington now with my wife and two kids, both under 3. I’m the founder of Element Shrub. We started making shrubs for the first time when we were living in Cambridge, MA. We got involved in this group that foraged fruit from Cambridge and Somerville neighborhoods and ended up making everything you can imaging from fruit including hard apple cider, pies, jams, jellies and shrubs.
What’s the first cocktail you remember really enjoying?
The first cocktail I remember really standing out to me was on my first date with my wife. We spent the night walking around Manhattan and stopped in Little Branch, a great semi-hidden bar in the West Village. It was the middle of March so there was a nice chill in the air and we ordered a buttered hot toddy and it was perfect way to end the night.
What do you like to make most at home?
I am always experimenting with our shrubs (I have to. It’s my job.) and making weird infusions, but when we are not drinking shrubs, it’s usually something pretty boozy. I have always enjoyed stronger drinks because I tend to drink whatever is in front of me quickly so I find that if the drink is stronger, I will drink it slowly and enjoy it more.
What would you suggest reading or watching to a new home bartender?
I love Dave Arnolds’ Liquid Intelligence. It may feel like a textbook to some (I prefer this) and provides a bunch of techniques I may never use at home, but covers all of the basics in a thoughtful and comprehensive way.
The other book I like is The Flavor Thesaurus by Niki Segnit. Although it is geared more towards food, understanding how flavors work and pair together is equally important for creating “new” cocktails at home rather than “classics” where the recipe is pretty straight forward.
What skills should they pick up?
I think understanding basic ratios of spirit: tart/sour: sweet) is really important. From there you can be as creative as you would like.
What’s your favorite cocktail?
The Corpse Reviver #2 (Gin, Lemon Juice, Orange Liqueur, Lillet Blanc, Absinthe) with a shrub twist. Instead of lemon juice, we use our Lemon Mint Shrub.
What cocktail do you just not understand why people drink it?
This is more of a personal preference but I have never enjoyed sake on its own or in cocktails.
What cocktail trend(s) do you love? What cocktail trend(s) do you hate?
As a shrub maker, I like the movement towards low ABV cocktails and mocktails. I think it requires a lot of creativity and can make for some really interesting drinks if done correctly.
If you have one (or a few), what would say is your ‘signature drink’?
I really like our Smoky Margarita that uses our Honeydew Jalapeno Shrub, Tequila and a spritz of Laphroig. It’s surprisingly complex for how simple it is to make:
- 2oz Tequila
- 1oz Honeydew Jalapeno Shrub
- Shake with ice.
- Rinse glass with Laphoigh