Drinking vinegars are not something that would have appealed to me before I started eating at the world class Thai restaurant, Pok Pok, located a block away from us. Every time I went into the restaurant, I would see them on the menu. I watched as glass after glass left the bar and heard enthusiastic exclamations from happy customers until I finally gave in and decided to try one for myself. I’ve been hooked ever since. They are delicious! My first was honey flavored, but I have graduated to more complex flavors since.
The practice of drinking vinegar for health reasons is an ancient practice in many cultures around the world, dating back to colonial times when “shrubs” were a common tonic. They are light, delicious and refreshing drinks with a nice tartness coming from the vinegar and concentrated flavors of fruit, vegetable and aromatics. (Think a less sweet, lighter version of lemonade.)
Pok Pok has been serving these vinegars since 2005, both diluted with soda water as a soft drink and at full strength as a mixer in several of their awesome house cocktails. Their house brand, “Som” is handcrafted in Portland using natural flavoring, organic cane sugar and quality natural vinegars. Until today, I had never tried a drinking vinegar with alcohol. I usually enjoy them for their light, thirst quenching qualities, and rarely drink alcohol at all…but this afternoon, after a grueling day of homework, I decided to give one a try.
I walked down the street early this evening to the French boulangerie called, St. Honorie, where I frequently grab one of their delicious beet salads. Their mixologist, Jacob Grier has come up with a delicious cocktain that contains drinking vinegar, so I tried one of those. It is called “Midnight in Paris,” and combines Finnriver Farmstead cider, Lillet Blanc, sweet orange drinking vinegar, elderflower syrup and orange peel. It’s on the sweet end of the spectrum, but the Lillet Blanc and vinegar lend creative and complex flavors. It was the perfect complement to my salad.
My son-in-law makes drinking vinegars at home. This summer, he made raspberry, pear, blackberry and strawberry flavored vinegars. They were stronger than the ones sold at St. Honorie and Pok Pok, but man! Were they delicious! I’m a fan of his full-fruit flavors and additional tartness.
Here is a general recipe that can be adjusted to taste:
If you’ve not tried drinking vinegars and would care to, you can order 16 ounce Som here:
Cheers, dears! (clink!)