Dew points in the 70s and triple digit temperatures make for quite the unhappy populous. Sweaty, sticky...even when I was snapping photos outdoors my little jar of brewing sumac vinegar was a drippy perspiring mess. What better thing for a week of balmy jungle weather than a refreshing fizzy drink?! Ladies and gents I bring you sumac sparkling shrub.
The base of this drink is actually sumac vinegar which consists of sumac berries steeped in a sugar and white wine vinegar syrup. This elicits the "shrub" part of the sumac drink. Magic happens when you add the fizzy water and presto sparkling sumac shrub.
A little background on sumac. It is actually a relatively common roadside shrub. Often its leaves will turn a vibrant red come fall while during the late summer its berries will ripen to a brilliant maroon.
When harvesting, you MUST be certain to harvest Staghorn Sumac or Rhus typhina as is its botanical name. Another variety, known as Poison Sumac or Toxicodendron vernix, is poisonous and should NEVER be used.
Be aware that although prevalent on roadsides you should refrain from harvesting berries in high traffic areas and those have that been sprayed with herbicides or pesticides. Additionally, sumac is best harvested after a long dry period so its lovely aroma is not washed away by rain.
Sumac's flavor profile is pungent, lemony and tart, but its fragrance carries overtones of strawberries with a slight hint of rose hips. To some, the tiny hair follicles on sumac can be irritating so it is best to strain the sumac through a cheese cloth when removing the berries from steeping liquid.
If you would like more information on sumac I highly recommend giving Samuel Thayer's Forager's Harvesta look.
Sumac Sparkling Shrub
For the Vinegar:
2 c. of white wine vinegar
1 c. sugar
1.5 c. sumac berries approximately 3 heads of sumac (do NOT wash!!!)
Combine the vinegar and sugar over medium high heat and stir till the sugar has dissolved into the vinegar. Bring to a boil and then remove from heat and pour in a measuring cup to cool.
For the berries, remove them from the stem and put into a glass mason jar. Once the vinegar has cooled, pour the vinegar over the berries. Use wax paper or saran wrap and cover the mason jar opening and screw the ring lid over the mason jar. (The metallic lid from the regular lid will impart a metallic taste otherwise)
Set in the fridge and agitate daily for 3 days. On day 3 remove the jar and lid and strain the liquid through a mesh sieve lined with cheese cloth and place the vinegar in a jar or bottle in the refrigerator till needed.
For the Sparkling Shrub:
1 part sumac vinegar
6 parts sparkling water
Combine the two liquids and adjust for more or less vinegar according to your preference. Add an edible flower to dress up the drink or ice if you like. Sip and enjoy this little number under a shady tree with your favorite book and let your sweat glands breathe a temporary sigh of relief.