Known as drinking vinegars, sipping vinegars, or shrubs, these zippy herbal concoctions have become quite trendy in the world of hip cocktails, but they are also a classic way to enjoy a healthful beverage. In fact, in North America during colonial times, sipping vinegars were a way to preserve fruits and herbs and create a deliciously consumable infusion.
We know we can make simple teas from so many different fresh and dried herbs, and we have our tinctures for concentrations of herbal properties, but vinegar is often overlooked as a way to create tasty and useful preparations.
Holy Basil, or Tulsi has been used in various cultures for generations as a healthful herb, often used in the practice of Ayurveda. Tulsi is considered to be an adaptogen. It also lends itself well to sipping vinegars—particularly the Krishna and the Rama varieties—which are cultivated commonly throughout the gardens of India. With spicy leaves that are peppery, lemony, and with undertones of clove and licorice, these flavors are a good match for vinegars. Our organic Holy Basil varieties are particularly special, as they were grown for us both right here in the Pacific Northwest and on one of our beautiful organic farms in India. The quality of flavor and aroma is absolutely stellar!
The ritual of preparing a calming, relaxing beverage is as much a part of self-rejuvenation for me as the herbal properties themselves. Creating infused vinegars and crafting tonics allows me to be personally involved in caring for my mind, my body, and my loved ones.
A sipping vinegar or shrub is basically a combination of vinegar, sugar, and plant matter. You can use any vinegar you’d like: apple cider, champagne, red wine, etc. I prefer to use an organic apple cider for herbal infusions, but I often use organic white vinegar for infusions used for culinary preparations (more “glamorous” fruity shrubs) or those I intend to give as gifts.
When it comes to the sugar, I like to use raw honey vinegars, but this is where you can use what works best for you too. The infusion can then be taken as a tonic or can be mixed with sparkling water, juice, alcohol, or a mixture of all for a delicious beverage. You can adjust the sweetener to taste and you might be surprised how delightfully mellow a well-infused sipping vinegar can be...
Rama Damiana Calming Sipping Vinegar
Using a clean quart jar, put 1 cup each organic Holy Basil (Rama) and organic Damiana into the jar and cover with 3-4 cups apple cider vinegar, making sure to cover the herbs entirely. Cover with a plastic lid or wax paper or plastic wrap and let sit to infuse. For herbal preparations, 6-8 weeks is the estimated length of infusion, although many folks will strain and use their vinegars after 1 week—especially those using the vinegars for cocktails. You may infuse these in a cool, dark place, or in the sunlight.
Using a strainer or several layers of cheesecloth, strain the vinegar and compost the herbs. Add 1 Tablespoons raw local honey per ½ cup of vinegar in a clean jar and shake to combine. This is best stored in a sealed jar in the refrigerator.
For one beverage, add an optional ice cube or two to a glass. Add ¼ cup sipping vinegar and fill glass with sparkling water, club soda, soda water, seltzer, bubbly, etc. (or you can just add water or your organic tea of choice.) If you’d like a little alcohol, make room for an ounce or so of your liquor or wine of choice.) You can also take this as a tonic by the tablespoon or shot glass.
Krishna Holy Basil Sipping Vinegar
(with optional Strawberries)
Basil and strawberries are an interesting and delicious combination and this blending makes for a wonderful beverage. Feel free to experiment with other fruits or go with just the Holy Basil.
Using a clean quart jar, put 1-2 cups organic Holy Basil (Krishna) into the jar and cover with 3-4 cups vinegar (your choice), making sure to cover the herbs entirely. Cover with a plastic lid or wax paper or wrap plastic wrap and let sit to infuse 1-6 weeks. You may infuse these in a cool, dark place, or in the sunlight if you’d like.
Using a strainer or several layers of cheesecloth, strain the vinegar and compost the herbs. While the vinegar is straining, mash ½ cup organic strawberries (if I don’t have fresh, I thaw strawberries that we’ve frozen from our garden and use those). Add 2-3 Tablespoons of raw local honey or organic cane sugar to the strawberries and smash up together. I like to let them sit for at least an hour, but usually several hours before mashing and combining with the strained vinegar. Combine the vinegar and sweetened strawberries in a clean jar and shake to fully incorporate (you can also blend in a blender or use an immersion blender for extra smoothness.) This is best stored in a sealed jar in the refrigerator.
For one beverage, add an optional ice cube or two to a glass. Add ¼ cup sipping vinegar and fill glass with sparkling water, club soda, soda water, seltzer,bubbly, etc. (or you can just add water, juice or your organic tea of choice.) If you’d like a little alcohol, make room for an ounce or so of liquor or white or rose wine.) ¼ cup of this vinegar with sparkling wine or champagne is delicious too! You can also take this as a tonic by the tablespoon or shot glass.
So, next time you are craving an herbal infusion that is a little zippier than the customary cup of tea or looking for a creative and intentional way to experience the pleasures of herbs like Holy Basil, consider creating a delicious sipping vinegar!