Drinking Thinking

Why Aren’t We All Drinking Vinegar?

24th January 2019

There is a ritual these days for drinking vinegar. A health tonic, a digestive cure or a deliciously tangy addition to cocktails? All of the above. Drinking vinegars – and particularly apple cider vinegar – are cropping up on menus and shop shelves across the country. Who’d have thought it, but yes it’s a movement. Passing fad or a trend that’s here to stay? Clare Lattin, co-owner of London’s ferment-focussed restaurants Rawduck and Little Duck The Picklery gives us the lowdown.

Drinking vinegar is nothing new, and it’s good for you too

And why? Because this new so-called discovery doesn’t belong to our generation. It’s not something we or any cool, hip person has just come up with. Drinking vinegar goes back a good hundred – if not thousands – of years. Historically, vinegar was consumed as a tonic for preventing and curing various ills from stomach upsets to sore throats. It’s also said to lower blood glucose levels and help with skin complaints. It’s rich in acetic, citric, malic and amino acids, and when unpasteurised contains vitamins and enzymes that are beneficial to all-round health, from your digestive system to balancing your skin’s PH levels.

Unpasteurised, live, raw, with the mother…

But let’s not reach for the Sarsons just yet! The vinegar that everyone is talking about is the vinegar that is with ‘mother’, which basically translates as the active ingredient that gets all the good things working together in the first place.

This mother or ‘starter’ as it’s sometimes called, is formed of acetic acid bacteria which develops during the fermentation of alcohol. This bacteria is what transforms alcohol into acetic acid. You can make vinegar from virtually any alcohol so long as you have this natural live starter of cellulose and acetic acid bacteria, which you can create naturally. But that’s for another time.

So for now, if you’re going to indulge in this resurrected tradition of drinking vinegar as a health tonic, here’s how to do it properly. You need to buy unpasteurised vinegar or vinegar ‘with mother’. Be sure that it clearly states on the label ‘unpasteurised’ or ‘with mother’ – this stuff has not been pasteurised and therefore retains the nutrients and bacteria that form during fermentation.

where to buy apple cider vinegar

Raw, live apple cider vinegar contains vitamins and enzymes that are great for all-round health. Available on farmdrop.com

Now, if you’re going to drink vinegar straight up, apple cider vinegar has the best flavour. Apple cider vinegar, as opposed to wine vinegars for example, is gentler and milder, with hints of fermented apple while a wine vinegar (even if it has the mother) is generally too harsh to drink just as it is. Saying that, some might find any vinegar quite unpleasant to drink straight, but there are ways to make them taste good.

How to make drinking vinegar taste good

About five years ago, myself and Rory McCoy my restaurant partner, embarked on a pilgrimage of fermentation across America. It was in the very early days of our fermenting-focussed Rawduck restaurant in Hackney, which we opened together in 2012. America always being ahead of us, we followed its road to enlightenment but a lack-lustre discovery came only in the form of some pretty vulgar, overly sweet cocktail shrubs.

America was not the path of promise, but it did transform our fermentation practices. Over the next few years, Rory decided to create a range of real drinking vinegars. He deconstructed the process of these sickly vinegar syrups we’d found, combined it with memories of his own mother and grandfather drinking honeygar (a blend of vinegar and honey), and researched the old-fashioned notion of preserving fruit. Also known as a shrub. Rory began a quest to create a proper drinking vinegar; the perfect balance of a fresh fruit base, preserved with sugar and fermented with apple cider vinegar.

Today we have a seasonal range of fruit drinking vinegars that we sell at The Picklery in Dalston and on Farmdrop. The drink is a lively, effervescent fruity drink. Perhaps like a cordial, made with real fruit and unpasteurised apple cider vinegar.

You can make them yourself too

Try it yourself: mash fresh raspberries together with caster sugar and leave it to macerate for a couple of days. Place into a sterilised jar and top up with apple cider vinegar. Seal and leave it to ferment in the fridge for five to 10 days. Keep tasting it during this period and you’ll notice the flavours develop. You’re looking for a good balance of acidity, tart fruit and mellowness.

In essence it’s a delicious, sparkling fruit drink with a boost of probiotics and a vivacious twang of acidity. Enjoy drinking vinegars as a soft drink, or added to your sparkling wine for a wonderful bellini. They also work brilliantly in cocktails as a fruity base.

Inspired to start drinking vinegar? Try Little Duck The Picklery’s seasonal drinking vinegars.

Make your own apple cider vinegar super simply using your leftover apple scraps. Or delve further into the world of fermentation with these DIY guides to kombucha, red wine vinegar and paneer cheese

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