A Refreshing Coffee Cooler With Balsamic Vinegar? Yup.

by Simona Terron
Balsamic vinegar is a wonderful ingredient, but we tend to only use it to add a bit of tartness to a green salad. And coffee is the best thing to boost your mood or get you out of a slump, but we rarely experiment with it. Put these two together and you have one killer brew to beat the heat.

It’s called a coffee shrub. Shrubs are basically fruit syrups that are preserved with vinegar and can be mixed with water or alcohol to create delicious drinks with complex flavor profiles. Shrub syrups even make a great glaze for meats.

But when Portland Barista employee Jed Klingensmith (also known as the company’s “culinary mastermind”) made this drink as part of a contest to create a new drink, everyone went berserk. The concoction that mixed the strange bedfellows of cold-brewed coffee and balsamic vinegar became something that was exactly what the advertisement said it would be: effervescent, tangy, and awakening.

And with warmer weather here at last, a nice refreshing beverage is not such a bad thing to have.

This recipe was the outcome of tinkering with unlikely components to see how they matched and contrasted, so you too are encouraged to experiment with this basic formula. Focus on using the best quality coffee you can lay your hands on, preferably from South America. You can add it to cola for a fizzy cooler in the day, or blend it with a dash of some fragrant liqueur as a post-dinner drink.

However you make it, just remember to make extra for repeat requests.

Here’s how to make your own Shrub coffee cooler:
  • 1 1⁄2 cups balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1⁄2 cups coarsely ground espresso coffee
  • 6 tbsp agave syrup
  • 6 tbsp maple syrup
  • Chilled sparkling water, for serving
To Make The Shrub:
In a medium bowl, combine the balsamic vinegar with the coffee and half a cup of water, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature for at least 6 hours or overnight. Pour the liquid through a fine sieve lined with cheesecloth into another bowl and then stir in the agave and maple syrups. Store the coffee shrub in an airtight glass container in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.

To Serve: In a chilled 12-oz. glass filled with ice, add 3 tablespoons coffee shrub, top with 4 ounces sparkling water, and stir to combine.

Makes 2 cups
Prep time: 6 Hours
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