Hey, Ricky!

Dear Fancy Bar Chef,

My favorite summertime drink is a nice Gin Rickey. Really, I just like gin and lots and lots of limes. I’ve been to your bar and noticed all the different bitters and often wondered if we could add something to the Gin Rickey. Any ideas?
Katy in Columbia

Dear Katy,
The Gin Rickey may be, in fact, the most delicious and refreshing cocktail ever invented. And as you may or may not know, it is named for Joe Rickey, a Democratic lobbyist from Missouri in the 1880s. He was working in Washington, D.C., and at the time frequenting Shoomaker’s bar, when he and the bartender concocted this libation. Today, we enjoy this drink mostly on porches when it’s hot out, smelling the fresh-cut grass.

At my bar, I have been making what is known as “shrubs.” A shrub is a sweetened and usually infused vinegar that you use in dashes to add that special something to your drink. Shrubs were originally used by colonial Americans to flavor rum punches and what-not. In the 1700s, smugglers would add these concentrated mixtures to barrels of rum to cover up the saltwater taste after they would steal them and store them in the ocean to retrieve later.

Today I’ve got one made with orange, cinnamon and balsamic vinegar. Added to your Gin Rickey, it makes a wonderful summer cocktail I will call The Katy May.

Remember when concocting cocktails or making shrubs, your only limitation is your own imagination.

The Fancy Bar Chef

The Gin Rickey
2 ounces gin
1/2 lime squeezed (more or less to taste)

Pour the gin and lime juice over ice into your favorite glass. Top with club soda. Add a dash of Orange Balsamic Shrub to create The Katy May.

Orange Balsamic Shrub
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 oranges, peeled and seeded
2 cups balsamic vinegar

Bring sugar and water to a boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Add the cinnamon stick and oranges, and let steep until the mixture cools to room temperature. Strain off the solids and add balsamic vinegar. Seal and store.

Aaron Brown tends bar at Bleu Restaurant & Wine Bar in downtown Columbia and at The Bridge in the North Village Arts District. Every month you can find him in the pages of Inside Columbia, concocting tasty drinks you can make at home. Follow the Fancy Bar Chef on Facebook (www.facebook.com/fancybarchef) and Twitter (@roontaaron).