Early on in to the bellyQ project in Chicago, Chef Bill Kim had told me he wanted to incorporate drinking vinegars in the drink menu. They were non-alcoholic, so that worked for him since he didn't drink much, vinegars were popular in Asian cuisine, and they simply tasted great. The problem was, I had just never heard of them. So I set off to researching, which was my typical scanning of multiple sources, products, reviews and then collecting the pieces that made sense. I was lucky with this attempt and pretty much nailed it off the bat, but without a reference point to taste against, my idea of "nailing it" just meant people enjoyed them and they started to gain attention and sales. The drinks are quite refreshing, full of fruit flavor, but finish with the slight bite of vinegar.
My earlier tests were too vinegary for my taste but I noticed that the kitchen was using a lot of coconut vinegar in the cooking. Coconut Vinegar has a lower acidity, closer to 4%, compared to the apple cider or white wine vinegars that I had first tried, which were about 5% acidity. I found this to be a much better fit, although finding coconut vinegars outside of a Vietnamese specialty store can be a bit hard. It also comes in a variety of shades from almost clear to a pale milky white to an off brown. Obviously the clear or white varieties are best for getting a vibrant color in the cocktail. I preferred the Silver Swan brand.
For the fruit element, I used Perfect Pure of Napa Valley. The fruit flavors were spot on, I loved the texture of the product, and they were always consistent. These can usually be ordered through a restaurant food wholesaler and are sold in frozen quart containers, six to a case.
From a beverage management standpoint, these made a lot of sense and I have since tried to convince many clients to use them. They can be produced once a week - or even once a month - and are shelf stable because of the vinegar and they are very easy to make. They are easy to execute as a non-alcoholic drink, they are easy to incorporate into a cocktail, and they costs just pennies to make but could realize nearly a 900% profit (or a 10% cost) This is a great way to boost lunchtime tabs, as well. And you can also change out the flavors often, providing daily flavors, to provide a wide variety for guests.
We would typically prep three or four flavors at a time and then rotate the offerings every few days. Although we tried many flavors, such as blueberry, mango, and raspberry, the two home-runs were always the coconut and passion fruit.
As vinegar is very pungent on the nose, make sure to add a sprig of mint or Thai Basil as garnish.
Here's a live demo...
Hands on Time: 5 min
Total Prep Time: 15 min
8 to 12 q Cambro
Large Mixing Spoon
In a cambro add:
1 qt Coconut Vinegar
1 qt Perfect Puree Fruit Concentrate
1 qt Organic Sugar Cane
2 c. Filtered Water (slightly more, depending on how concentrated puree is)
2 tsp Salt
1 tsp citric acid
Stir to dissolve (may take some time)
Garnish: Mint Sprig
In a Collins Glass add
1.5 oz Drinking Vinegar
Fill with soda, roll or stir to incorporate
Add mint garnish