SHRUBS & SELTZERS WITH LONGFLINT

Wednesday, 26 April 2017


so many of the drinks we're sold in the shops are full of nasties that can cause health problems, and preservatives that our bodies shouldn't be consuming, just to help them stay "fresher longer", or bubbly, or sweet, or whatever. but it rarely crosses my mind to find an alternative. mainly because the alternatives are often more expensive, or less tasty, or.. i'm just a fiend for the diet coke. whatever the case, i realise it's bad for me, yet i still do it.


so, when i heard that sourced market were running a "homemade fizzy drinks" workshop in their marylebone store, in conjunction with a fizzy drink brand i already know and love (mainly because gin, but also because arty) - longflint cocktails, well i was intrigued. plus: free booze, so count me in. this was the brand's debut event, and it was only a fiver - which is really nothing, and the event poster promised a masterclass on making natural drinks, free from preservatives and still deliciously tasty, as well as a diy "shrub" to take home at the end of the night. plus: free booze, so count me in.

in the first part of the class, we learned how to make a natural lemonade using oleo saccharum (or: sugar oil). we used an old-school refractometer (remember them from science class?) to measure the sugar content before carbonating an actual soda stream machine that you can totally still buy at argos. that's gone straight on the birthday wish list!


homemade lemonade

the key thing is to remember to get unwaxed lemons, or do your research into whether the lemons have a fungicide on them which is the key issue. mMake your oleo saccharum by zesting your lemons or other citrus fruit and then cover them in sugar.  for ten lemons use 1 kg of sugar.  give the sugar and zest a good bash with the end of a rolling pin or a cocktail muddler if you have one.
after three or four hours all the lovely oils will have released into the sugar. add 1 litre of water (if you used 1 kg of sugar - otherwise scale back as needed) and whisk gently until the sugar turns to syrup. strain out the zest. juice the lemons you zested and then the recipe is:
30 ml oleo saccharum 
40 ml lemon juice 
240 ml ice cold water 
this gives you a drink of around 5.5 grams or sugar per 100 grams of drink. you can of course adjust this to your own preferences (which is kind of the point…). another option is to use really fizzy water instead of the soda stream trick, but it means you have less control over the recipe. boo!


satisfied with our natural fizz, we moved on to something i had never heard of before: vinegar shrubs. these were developed by early homesteaders and uses unpasteurized vinegar to create an acidic "cordial" type base that's packed full of fruity flavours. from there, you can add to alcoholic drinks if that's your jam, or drink it soft if that's how you roll.

both of the drinks were easily made at home, and barely required ingredients you wouldn't normally have around, so it just goes to show really that a lot of the stuff we consume isutter waste. i found the theory of everything presented by longflint's founder james reaaaaally interesting (even though i'd had a few drinks before i'd come, and i was possibly a little loud for his - and the class', liking) too. at five pounds a pop, i had a really fun and educational time. plus: did i mention the free booze?


vinegar shrubs

gather your fruit and cut into walnut-sized chunks. if using berries, give them light muddle in the jar before adding the vinegar. make sure to first wash your jar in hot water (not so hot that it cracks!) or use straight from the dishwasher to relieve it of any nasties. 

we used aspalls unpasteurized cider vinegar to cover the fruit; you want about an inch more liquid than fruit. then cover the jar with clean cheesecloth (or similar) and leave at room temperature for five (long) days. what happens is the natural yeasts in the fruit and in the air start to ferment and as that creates alcohol the acetobacter in the raw vinegar feeds off the alcohol to create acetic acid (aka more vinegar). as it does so it creates all sorts of additional byproducts that add flavour and depth to your shrub. 
after those long five days, strain your shrub and place back in the jar and seal it up. keep it in the fridge for five more days and you’re ready to go! your shrub will need sugar though, so use oleo saccharum if you have it, or just create a 50/50 sugar and water syrup using the whisk method as before.
to make it a soft drink, you can either add syrup to all of your shrub and then dilute with still of fizzy water when you want to drink (more convenient as this will keep in the fridge for a long time) or add the sugar syrup each time you make the drink. to make a cocktail we used dodd's kew organic gin but don't be scared to try out your own recipes - really, all booze is good booze. i might add some prosecco to mine for a treat!
want to find out more about natural drinks? check out longflint's range here. i was a guest for the event, but assured (most) words are my own (some came in the course notes, for when i wasn't paying attention. thanks james!).

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