Vinegar doesn't jump to mind as a cocktail mixer, but when the tangy, bracing tonic is macerated with fresh fruit and sugar, it becomes a bartender’s favorite: a shrub. Buzzy chef Andy Ricker loves "drinking vinegars" so much that he makes and markets his own under the label Som. Now with five restaurants in New York and Portland, Oregon, including Pok Pok, Whiskey Soda Lounge and Pok Pok Ny (which just earned two stars from the New York Times), Ricker is garnering more attention for the beverages he first discovered while wandering Asian supermarkets.
The vinegars soon appeared on Pok Pok’s menu as both nonalcoholic drinks and in cocktails. Tired of clearing out market shelves, Ricker unveiled his own “shrub style” vinegars, made with palm or cane vinegar, which both have a clean, fruity taste.
His original vinegar cocktail—the Apple Gin Rickey with apple vinegar, gin and soda—is still on menus today. Newer additions include the Hunny (honey Som, tequila, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice and lime) and the Lord Bergamot (honey Som, tea-infused vodka, orange liqueur and soda). In Ricker's Portland restaurants, the Heat Ray represents his first foray into vegetable vinegars, combining a celery-flavored version with gin, chiles and lime juice.