While this blog is generally about my DIY exploits in the world of shrub making, it's good to acknowledge what other people out there are doing, especially for those who love the idea of drinking vinegars, but don't have the time or inclination to actually make it themselves.
The world of commercially available drinking vinegars is a small one. While Tait Farms has offered shrubs for decades, there are two other young companies from Oregon that have been releasing some very tasty and interesting offering. While Pok Pok has been garnering the most media attention for their Som drinking vinegars, another company has been quietly but steadily been growing strong and earning a lot of positive attention from bartenders, foodies, and the history buffs alike.
Sage and Sea Farms embodies several of the qualities I would look for in someone who produces this stuff commercially: excellent seasonal flavors, a strong dedication to a quality handmade product, and a massive dedication to sourcing and using local ingredients in that product whenever possible.
I was lucky enough to meet one of the proprietors of Sage and Sea Farms, Deb Counts-Tabor at the Urban Craft Uprising in the Seattle Center last Saturday. Deb was kind enough to give me some samples of their shrub as well as a little background on their process, which differs a little from my own. Deb uses the more traditional white distilled vinegar in their product. Unlike my cold process, Sage and Sea Farms cooks their shrub, which is quite concentrated making it perfect for cocktail purposes, illustrated by their recent popularity in the beverage programs of several Portland area restaurants, as well as being a secret ingredient in an Iron Bartender charity event.
Deb brought several flavors with her, including ginger, grapefruit, fennel, quince, sweet cherry, and pie cherry among others. I was fortunate enough to sample the ginger, fennel, and pie cherry, all of which had a more distinct vinegar bite than other shrubs I have tried. The ginger was clean and hot, the fennel subtle, and the only difference between the cherry shrub and a piece of pie was a fork and scoop of vanilla ice cream. This was the type of cherry shrub I had always wanted to make. Full disclosure, I'm a bit jealous of that one, but my envy soon dissolved into admiration and I bought a bottle right on the spot.
While my first instinct would generally be to make my own, Deb and her family have brought a unique and delicious drinking vinegar to the market, and for fans looking for a wide spectrum of flavors and techniques in their shrubs, this can only be a great thing for myself and other devotees to the craft.
PS- A big thanks to Deb for talking to us and giving us those delicious samples!