Vinegar, particularly apple cider vinegar, has long been hailed for its healing properties, with benefits ranging from reducing congestion, soothing a sore throat, and remedying indigestion, to balancing insulin levels and lowering cholesterol. All this and it’s thought to reduce the effect of a hangover to boot. We’ll drink to that! And drink we shall, for bartenders and entrepreneurs in the Pacific Northwest are finding unique, and often age-old methods for adding the tart, pungent flavor of vinegar into cocktails.
Judy Tan left her job as a designer at Nike to strike out on her own. She first started tanQ, designing unique t-shirts to help nonprofit organizations raise money. Tan’s other passion is health and fitness. In 2013 she co-founded Genki-Su with friend Takako Shinjo. Together, they took recipes used by Shinjo’s family when she was growing up in Japan to make a line of drinking vinegars and ready-to-drink bottled tonics.
“We wanted to perfect a recipe that was healthy and had no added sugar,” Tan explains. “Just vinegars flavored with fresh fruit and sweetened with honey and stevia, so they are all natural and very low in calories.”
Genki-Su’s drinking vinegar concentrates currently come in yuzu, nashi (Asian pear) and ginger-honey. The line also offers seasonal flavors of shiso and cranberry. “Ginger-honey is by far the most popular,” says Tan. “It’s probably the most versatile, and ginger also has added health benefits.”
Genki-Su’s products were first sold in farmers’ markets and then bolstered by a Kickstarter campaign. They can now be found across Portland in New Seasons and Whole Foods supermarkets, in addition to several natural food and specialty grocers.
Tan recommends mixing one part of the concentrates with eight parts sparkling water for a fizzy, refreshing beverage. She’s also found that customers like to use the vinegars in salad dressings and marinades. Tan adds a shot of the ginger-honey drinking vinegar to her morning green smoothies, and also recommends adding the concentrate to plain unsweetened yogurt. She’s no teetotaler and enjoys the concentrates in cocktails as well, mixing the ginger-honey drinking vinegar with soda water, vodka and lime for a riff on the Moscow mule.
For Jacob Grier, cocktail consultant and author of “Cocktails on Tap: The Art of Mixing Spirits and Beer,” vinegar concoctions add much needed acidity to cocktails. “We usually get (acidity) from citrus juice, but drinking vinegars are another great option,” he explains. “Infused vinegars bring complexity and the flavors of their infusion into cocktails, which allows for interesting combinations. They’re also ideal for home when you may not always have fresh fruit on hand.”
Grier’s recipe for a Yuzu Sour, that he created for Portland’s The Hop and Vine, combines Genki-Su’s yuzu drinking vinegar with bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup, and Angostura bitters
And about those hangover claims? There’s anecdotal evidence that adding vinegar to cocktails may help offset the effects of the alcohol in the drink. Alcohol makes your pH more acidic, while the vinegar restores your pH. We’re up for a delicious experiment!
Yuzu Sour, by Jacob Grier
1 1/2 ounces bourbon
3/4 ounce Genki-Su yuzu vinegar
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Lemon peel, for garnish
Shake, strain into an ice-filled rocks glass, and garnish with a lemon twist.