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Though we love pickles here at Bittermens Central, we never really understood the allure of the pickleback. We like our pickles and we like our hooch. Hell, some of us have been known to have a pickled egg or two while drinking – and pickles and beer are a great combination. Just keep the pickles on the plate and the booze in the glass.
Yet, for as much as we may not understand the pickleback, during colonial times, shrubs were extremely common – vinegar-based refreshers, many times combined with alcohol or allowed to ferment so they had a bit of a kick. Maybe we’re just trying to find a way back to our cocktail roots?
Talking about roots, for those of you whose families emigrated from Eastern Europe to New York in the late 1800s or early 1900s, your ancestors probably spent some time in the immigrant tenements in the Lower East Side. Though most of the old world has been replaced by people selling cheap accessories, there is (until recently, unfortunately) Guss’ Pickles, a pickle purveyor since 1910 and Russ and Daughters – one of the last appetizing shops, who recently started to make a really tasty beet shrub.
Thinking about the Lower East Side, one of the classic flavors during the tenement era was Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray Soda, a celery soda so popular during the ’30s, it was nicknamed the Jewish Champagne. Though the only flavor that is declared is celery seed, we always got a sense that there was a bit of ginger and apple in there somewhere.
Wrapping all of this history together, we decided to take all of these ideas and run with them. We took an idea of a brine, a shrub and a classic soda and decided to dedicate it to Orchard Street, home of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. Funny that something that we made to honor the Eastern European immigrant experience works so damned well with Scandinavian Aquavit!
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