Features

Drinking vinegars

With health-conscious guests expecting more than a lime and soda, enter shrubs, or drinking vinegars

We are drinking less. A clear-headed 20% of the UK’s adult population now actively chooses not to drink alcohol, says the Office for National Statistics, and restaurants and bars have responded. 

Or should that be ‘re-enter’? There’s nothing new about this sweet-sour combination of ripe fruit and vinegar with its refreshing acidity and depth of flavour, not to mention its gut-health properties. Their history stretches back to the Babylonians who added date vinegar to water to make it safe to drink; the word comes from the Arabic ‘sharab’ meaning ‘drink’. Later popularised by the Romans, Ottoman sultans, Victorians and America’s temperance movement, today you’ll find them on the best alcohol-free lists.

At The Hand & Flowers, Marlow, the ‘Oopsy Daisy’ is made with Seedlip Garden 108, homemade raspberry shrub and lemonade.  A blackcurrant and juniper Nonsuch shrub is served at The Unruly Pig, Bromeswell. In Notting Hill, The Ledbury mixes Mother Root Ginger Switchel (a sweetened vinegar-based drink) with sparkling water and at Rovi in Fitzrovia, sip a plum and sorrel drinking vinegar.