Cocktail Challenge: Balsamic vinegar | Cocktail Challenge | Chicago Reader

Cocktail Challenge: Balsamic vinegar 

Lisa Selman of Little Market Brasserie crafts a tequila-based eye-opener with unfermented grapes.

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Lisa Selman's cocktail made from unfermented grapes.

Lisa Selman's cocktail made from unfermented grapes.

Andrea Bauer

Genuine balsamic vinegar—which is made not from wine but from unfermented grapes aged in a succession of wooden casks, from oak to juniper—has been produced in northern Italy since the Middle Ages, when it was used as a tonic. Challenged with the condiment by Balena's Natalia Cardenas, Lisa Selman of Little Market Brasserie employed it in similar fashion, combining it with aged tequila, house-made ginger syrup, and mole bitters for an eye-opener that only looks like a mimosa. To perk things up further, she rimmed the champagne flute with spicy Pico Piquin seasoning mixed with a little kosher salt.

(Recipe below slideshow)

Grape Expectations

2 oz 7 Leguas anejo tequila

1 oz ginger syrup*

1/2 oz lemon juice

1 hefty scoop of apricot-peach preserves

1/4 oz white balsamic vinegar

4 drops Bittermens Xocolatl Mole bitters

Fresh mint and pico piquin, for garnish

* Bring two cups water, two cups sugar, and a six-inch chunk of ginger, peeled and diced, to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for an hour. Cool, then strain.

Combine ingredients, shake over ice, and double strain into a champagne flute rimmed with Pico Piquin and kosher salt. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Who's Next

Selman has challenged Alex Renshaw of Sable with chalk. "I know you can get edible chalk, but it seems like that would be cheating," he said somewhat ruefully.

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