Sipping fruit-flavored vinegar. Savoring lemon-infused kombucha. Tasting craft ciders on tap. Oregon’s cup runneth over with the latest beverage trends.
Vinegar: Tangy Thirst Quencher
Refreshingly sweet and tart, drinking vinegars (or shrubs) are an infusion of fruit, vinegar and sweetener. One company making a splash is Grumpy Dog Shrub Co., which produces a bevvy of drinking vinegars. All but one of Grumpy Dog Shrub’s vinegars are apple cider vinegar-based. Apple cider vinegar is touted for having numerous health benefits and has been adopted by many into everyday health and beauty routines.
“The vinegars are very flavorful – both tangy and tart,” says Christina Cary, owner and operator. “You definitely get the vinegar flavor, but you also taste the fruit or vegetables added to it. Bars and restaurants make great cocktails and sodas with our drinking vinegars.”
Located on the north Oregon coast, the Astoria company was launched in collaboration with Pilot House Distilling’s tasting room to show how vinegars can be used in many ways, including in cocktails and mocktails, while cooking, and to make salad dressings and desserts. Grumpy Dog Shrub’s most popular product is its tomatillo-jalapeño drinking vinegar.
“We started this one for Bloody Marys and margaritas, but quickly realized how much cooking you can do with it – fish tacos, oysters, chili, guacamole, slaw, any kind of marinade – I could go on and on,” Cary says.
Other popular products are the grapefruit vinegar and tonic, which has a zesty flavor and pairs well with seltzer water, water, tea, or in cocktails.
“These are great mixers and also a healthier alternative to a sugary juice or soda,” Cary says. “I even have parents buy them for their children’s snow cones so they aren’t being filled with sugary syrup.”
The Wonder of Kombucha
Customers can discover the unique taste of kombucha – a sparkling fermented tea with a storied history – at Kombucha Wonder Drink bar in Portland.
“For most people who have tried kombucha, they love the refreshing taste and how it can be an instant mood lifter,” says Paula Phillips, president of the company.
Believed to have been first brewed in the ancient Himalayas, kombucha is valued for possessing cleansing and detoxifying elements.
Kombucha Wonder Drink founder Stephen Lee was first introduced to kombucha while he was in Russia. He later returned home to the United States and founded the company. The company’s best-selling flavor is Asian pear and ginger made with fresh-brewed, organic oolong tea, followed by green tea lemon flavor made with organic sencha green tea.
As for the kombucha drink craze, Phillips says it “boils down to the fact that it is trendy, great tasting and has numerous health benefits.”
“People are constantly on the lookout for healthier options to nurture their bodies,” she says. “This is a trend that will stay.”
Bringing Cider Back
The Oregon beverage scene wouldn’t be complete without the crisp taste of cider. Based in Corvallis, 2 Towns Ciderhouse was co-founded by childhood friends Aaron Sarnoff-Wood, director of business development, and Lee Larson, CEO.
“Fermented cider is an amazingly versatile drink with a huge breadth of styles, from New World ciders that could almost be mistaken for Champagne to farmhouse-style ciders that boast notes of rich earth and fresh cut hay,” Sarnoff-Wood says. “There is something out there for everyone, and trying and exploring is much of the joy.”
“The Northwest region’s amazing agricultural community and farmland means amazing, quality ingredients,” he adds. “When people enjoy Northwest craft ciders they are supporting the farmers, economy and community that make craft cider possible.”
Some of 2 Towns Ciderhouse’s most popular drinks include BrightCider, which is made using Newtown Pippin apples, a heritage cultivate native to the United States, and The Made Marion, made using the Marionberry variety bred in Marion County by Oregon State University. Nutritionally, Sarnoff-Wood says ciders are naturally gluten-free and usually lower in calories than beer or wine, making them a perfect alternative for health-conscious consumers.
According to Sarnoff-Wood, cider has enjoyed explosive growth in the last decade, and “some even call this the U.S. cider renaissance.”
“Oregon has long been an epicenter for the craft beverage industry. An abundance of quality ingredients and an overall appreciation for quality of life in this region create an atmosphere very supportive of food and beverage innovation,” he says. “As an ever-evolving craft beer industry paved the way for consumer interest in new flavors and concepts, we found an eager and accepting audience when we reintroduced craft cider.”