On Time magazine’s list of the top 2011 food trends, the use of artisanal vinegars in restaurant kitchens ranked seventh. Jonathon Sawyer, the chef/owner of Greenhouse Tavern in Cleveland, was singled out for his creative menu use of complex, aged vinegars. What the magazine failed to point out was that the Tavern’s bar manager, Kevin Wildermuth, is deploying the use of house-made vinegars to create an array of bracingly fantastic drinks. It’s a superb example of a chef and mixologist working together to beautifully marry the food and drink programs. The duo is using vinegars that are glass- and whiskey barrel-aged from high-quality beers and wines that outlived their original intent. Like Sawyer, Wildermuth uses vinegars to replace citrus as the source of acid.
His sophisticated vinegar-based drinks include Big In Japan(white rum, apricot sake vinegar, simple syrup), OK Sour(Ohio honey syrup, Kentucky bourbon, apple cider champagne vinegar), Stone Soda (Amaretto, club soda, sparkling cava, apricot wheat beer vinegar) and 21st Century Vodka Cranberry(vodka, cranberry juice, rosé wine vinegar, simple syrup).
“Vinegars add an entirely different dimension to drinks,” said Wildermuth. “Vodka and cranberry is a boring cocktail, but the use of vinegar makes it far more interesting. ”
Also a master at barrel-aging cocktails, Wildermuth says vinegars in cocktails are intriguing because vinegars made and used at one restaurant will be different than ones at another. “You never know what’s coming through the door that will make a great vinegar. The exploration of flavors and drink possibilities are endless.”