Dana wrote about the virtues serving a simple aperitif, both for its palate-awakening qualities and as a gesture of hospitality before the meal. For those who prefer to sip a non-alcoholic beverage, let us suggest the blood orange shrub. A shrub, if you aren't familiar, is a drinkable vinegar made from fruit, vinegar, and sugar. Mixed with fizzy water, it makes a tart, refreshing soda and palate cleanser. Shrub syrup can also be used as a cocktail mixer. Although shrubs are most commonly made with berries or sweeter fruits, we wanted to try playing with some winter citrus. As luck would have it, we had a bag of beautiful blood oranges at the same time Marisa McClellan of Food in Jars shared her process for making blood orange shrub. To make a shrub, you can boil the ingredients or leave them to macerate in the refrigerator (or on the countertop). McClellan pointed out that cooking blood orange juice turns it bitter, so we went with her cold brew method, which requires little more than blood orange juice, sugar, apple cider vinegar, and a hour or two of time.
The result? A bracingly tart-sweet syrup with the most gorgeous color. Combined with sparkling water, it makes a wonderful palate opener or mid-afternoon pick-me-up. We did feel that the apple cider vinegar was a bit too strong, so next time we'd probably try champagne vinegar.
Get the recipe: Blood Orange Shrub at Food in JarsRelated: Drink Recipe: Elderberry Shrub (Images: Emily Ho)