Infusions of any sort–the days-long ones at least–always have the potential to disappoint, and disappoint hard.
I’m looking at you, hibiscus/cinnamon/cayenne concoction I found zero suitable use for, except for maybe sitting in my fridge and commiserating with that jar of mayonnaise which has gotten all of one tablespoon’s worth of attention since I bought it an embarrassingly long time ago.
This mango-chili shrub, though? Not to be dramatic, but it’s so good I want to punch myself in the face. Or at least tell you all about it.
Shrubs, if you’re unfamiliar, are sweetened, infused vinegar syrups. They’re not just for lushes, either–mixed with club soda, shrubs are an absolute delight of the nonalcoholic variety. But, as you probably know…
I’mma let everyone else make those.
My first go at this was tequila-based and excellent in its own right. Then, at some point between my first experiment and actually photographing this, I ended up at a lovely bar, drinking an astounding barrel-aged cachaca cocktail, and my brain lit up like a pinball machine. If pinball machines get into tequila ruts, that is.
What I’m saying is, you can’t go wrong with either here. Either way, this drink is fruity, but not overwhelmingly so. The chili tickles, but not nearly enough for this to be spicy. Montenegro adds a slight–but necessary–bitter component.
1. Shrubs are refreshing, with or without booze. The hellcat years can’t last forever–I understand.
2. A mango-chili one is your golden (well, more of a burnt sienna) ticket to a damn fine tipple.
3. If you ever visit me, don’t eat the mayo.
- 1 cup diced ripe mango
- 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder (I might bump this up to 2 next time)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 ounces cachaca (I used silver Novo Fogo)
- 3/4 ounce mango-chili shrub
- 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
- 1/4 ounce Montenegro amaro
- Wedge of mango with chili powder, or lime, for garnish (optional)
- Combine mango, vinegar, and chili powder in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Cover and let it steep at room temperature for 3 days, giving it a gentle shake every day.
- Strain mixture through a cheesecloth, squeezing out as much liquid as possible. Strain again through a fine-mesh sieve lined with a paper towel.
- Bring the vinegar mixture and the sugar to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Cool completely. Makes about 1 cup. (Note that I made double that, for experimentation purposes--this recipe makes plenty for a couple rounds of drinks.)
- Combine cachaca, shrub, lime juice and Montenegro in a shaker with a handful of ice and shake well. Strain into a tall (roughly 6-oz) ice-filled glass. Garnish with a chili-dusted mango wedge, or lime, if you'd like.