Greetings from the Pacific Northwest, where the very last of the grapes are hanging with heavy sweetness on the vines. “Grapes grow in the Northwest?”, you may be asking yourself. Yes, yes they do. And in great variety and abundance! I live in a cohousing community and also have an interest in permaculture and a love for wine. That combination has resulted in around 10 varieties of grapes occurring on our 9-house, 2-acre property. To celebrate our abundance of grapes and other produce, we recently pulled together a ‘homegrown happy hour’ featuring primarily grape-themed cocktails, accompanied by other goods that had been put up or processed by our members.
My favorite cocktail in any season is a French 75, and this gathering was no exception. I had boiled down some of the concord grapes with a few branches of rosemary and added some sugar to make a grape syrup. I used this in place of simple syrup in the drink, adding a healthy dose of gin and just a splash of St. Germain. Throw that in a cocktail shaker with ice for a few seconds, pour into a glass, and top it off with a little Spanish Cava, and there you have it: a Grape Rosemary Spanish 75, perhaps? So, so good.
Our other cocktail option of the evening was supplied by my neighbor, Jill. She had made a grape shrub mixture the night before that served as the base for any number of cocktails (or mocktails for our younger members). A shrub is basically a fruit syrup preserved with vinegar. I had my first experience with a shrub at an amazing place in Healdsburg, CA called Shed (healdsburgshed.com/). I had been wine tasting ALL DAY, and the apricot shrub was a refreshing change. Jill made the grape shrub by combining equal parts sugar and fruit puree and letting that stew overnight. The next day, she strained that and added an equal part of apple cider vinegar. She said you don’t have to add that much, and the better quality vinegar, the better your shrub will taste. Drinking it straight is potent, but mixed with vodka and a little soda water, it is a delightful, unusual treat. If you like kombucha, you will love shrubs!
We also did a little bit of fresh squeezing using my neighbor, Sarah’s sweet and tiny grapes, and our old-fashioned press and tough woman power. There really is nothing quite like homegrown goodness! Hopefully next year’s post will feature my first batch of wine…