An Amazing Mead based Shrub Cheater

One of my latest quests is to have amazing bar prep and to do it in a reasonable amount of time. I typically favor cold processes because it is really hard to get time on the stove when the kitchen is working hard. I’m also sick of coming early and leaving late. I meet so many women bar tending that I need a system that allows me to show up late and leave early.

Last August I discovered the great new mead offerings of Sap House Meadery in Ossipee New Hampshire. When I first got a hold of them I was only mixing their stuff with over proof rum in cocktails that look like this:

.75 oz. hopped blue berry maple mead

.75 oz. el dorado 151

.75 oz. lime juice

.5 oz. campari

4 g. non-aromatic white sugar

dash peychaud’s bitters

The mead on its own has a flabbiness (a characteristic inherent to mead) due to a lack of acidity but in a cocktail when you can add acidity in countless ways, my god, the aroma of the mead can be turbo charged beyond belief. So much pent up flavor is dying to be unblocked by a little calculated extra stimulation (g-spot!).

I’ve even started marrying the mead and overproof rum and mellowing them together in champagne bottles that have been de-aerated with the champagne bottle manifold. In equal proportions the alcohol content averages out to 45% and I have the hopes that the higher proof and change in various equilibriums will create conditions for favorable aroma change, namely via esterification of fatty acids [this turned out not to make a marked difference even after significant time elapse].

Recently I was challenged to make a carbonated shrub cocktail. I was also pressed for time so I reviewed my favorite aroma sources and immediately was seduced by the idea of using mead. The Sap House meads are readily available, their fruit sourcing is better than mine, and the product is already clarified. I quickly settled on a shrub base of:

1.5 oz. Sap House Meadery Hopped Blueberry Maple Mead

1 oz. honey vinegar (5% acetic)

10 g.  non-aromatic white sugar

The results are beautiful and a simple system is established where ingredients can be substituted for gentle variations.  The alcohol content averages out to 4% which when diluted more, such as in a lemon-aide recipe, becomes soft drink territory. Remember, for those scaling up and searching for more precision, we can estimate the dissolved volume of the white sugar by considering its density. White sugar is 1.57 times more dense then water so 10 grams displaces 6.37 ml.

I nailed something beautiful on the first try of a drink:

Pantry Cocktail

2.5 oz. Hopped Blueberry Maple Shrub Cheater

.5 oz. Campari

.5 oz. blanco tequila (I used the epic Arette)

Shake and double strain into a champagne 375ml then carbonate to 7 g/L of dissolved gas.

Really Wonderful. There is a unique meeting point of the vinegar acid and the bitterness of the Campari. Campari plus typical acids often construct grapefruit expressions but here, at the meeting of acetic acid and gustatory-bitterness, recollection knows not what to do.  If this cocktail cannot retrieve memories I bet it can cement them. Only drink such a rare experience when you want an evening to be unforgettable.

Other Sap House Mead based cocktails from the archives:

Look to the Sanru

1 oz. cascade mountain gin
1 oz. Sap House Meadery, hopped blueberry maple mead
1 oz. punt y mes
2 dashes peychaud’s bitters


Variation on a Brooklyn

1.5 oz. overproof overholt (55%)
1 oz. sap house meadery, hopped blueberry maple mead
.25 oz. cynar
.25 oz. maraschino liqueur


Passing the Torch

1 oz. pizoes aguardente de medronhos
1 oz. byrrh
1 oz. Sap House Meadery, hopped blueberry maple mead
float of del maguey mezcal “vida”

This new generation of meads are just so useful as a source of extraordinary aroma. I hope to develop even more techniques for them. For the lazy, or the aroma obsessed, or the meadophiles, this is good stuff.

[added 11/26/13]

chestnut shrub

1.5 oz. Die Hochland Imker chestnut flower & chestnut honey dew Mead

1 oz. honey vinegar (5% acetic)

10 g.  non-aromatic white sugar

first at bat

2.5 oz. chestnut “shrub”

.5 oz. campari

.5 oz. laphroaig 10 year cask strength

1.5 oz. water

carbonated to 7 g/L dissolved CO2

mezcal might be even more appropriate

2.5 oz. chestnut “shrub”

.5 oz. campari

.5 oz. 100 proof old forester

4 dashes peychaud’s bitters

1.5 oz. water

carbonated to 7 g/L dissolved CO2

(only missing the mostarda)

Raw Meat Infused Over Proof Guyana Rum

“In Demerara some of the rum producers have a unique custom of placing chunks of raw meat in the casks to assist in aging, to absorb certain impurities, and to add a certain distinctive character.” -Peter Valaer from Foreign and Domestic Rums, Journal of Industrial And Engineering Chemistry, September 1937.


Could this distinctive character be any fun and what is the chemistry behind all this?

For starters I suspect it is perfectly sound to put certain amounts of raw meat into overproof rum because the proof is actually high enough to sterilize the meat.  Gelatin in the meat might absorb certain compounds and create the same sort of fining effect commonly used in wine production.  Among the numerous aromatic compounds found in raw meat, a significant amount of fatty acids might be present that could undergo esterification and become distinct and desirable aroma compounds.  Esterification is the process where fatty acids react with alcohols, typically in the presence of heat, to form esters.  Esterification represents a large portion of the aromas created in the still.

What I’m not sure of is if the sterilized meat needs to go rancid or if I should de-aerate the infusion to prevent rancidity.  Oxidative rancidity can be desirable or not.  If I had the budget I’d do the experiment both ways but since costs add up quick I’m going to be conservative and de-aerate the infusion with the champagne bottle manifold.

500 ml over proof (75.5%) guyana rum

75 g hangar steak

de-aerated and stored under pressure on 7/18/13

The meat quickly turns grey and after just a few days starts to break apart.  Unless this could sit around for quite a while I imagine I’ll have to centrifuge this.

It has only been three days but I thought I’d give it a try.

1 oz. raw meat infused over proof demerara rum (the water in the meat seemed to dilute the proof far less than I estimated)

1 oz. cinzano sweet vermouth

nothing impressive. the rum already has a pungent, concentrated, dense sort of character that is hard to budge.

I will have to think about this more.


I finally got around to tasting this (9/25/2013).  The character has changed in a significant way but it is not exactly delicious.  The rum did “mellow” and the density of aroma encountered before seems to be gone.  The aroma now seems a combination of un-browned meat and something resembling peanut.  When I tasted the rum undiluted there was a confusing chemical/gustatory sensation almost like there was acid/bleach/ammonia or something generally acrid present.  When the alcohol was cut the acrid character seemed to go away.  I wonder if the meat decomposes to create compounds that could produce the sensation.

I don’t think this can be used in a beautiful context so it might just go down the drain, but it did give us a glimpse at the character that might have been encountered by the odd practice.