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Quality balsamic vinegar gives drinks a boost of fruit flavor, sweetness

The next time you find yourself wishing for natural fruit flavor and sweetness in sparkling water, a cocktail or another beverage, consider some new taste possibilities and add some quality balsamic vinegar to your drink.
The next time you find yourself wishing for natural fruit flavor and sweetness in sparkling water, a cocktail or another beverage, consider some new taste possibilities and add some quality balsamic vinegar to your drink. Special to The Star

With laughter in her voice, a woman said she had returned to The Tasteful Olive in Downtown Overland Park for more balsamic vinegar that she would use to flavor her sparkling water.

She blamed her anticipated purchase on her first taste of the combo during a Local Life event in downtown Overland Park.

Cocktails, shrubs and mocktails are having a big culinary moment. As whiskey’s popularity has skyrocketed and vermouth sales have soared, so has the popularity of “natural” add-ons including honey and herb-infused liqueurs. Simultaneously, soft drink sales have fallen as more people seek beverage alternatives.

One alternative is a combination of sparkling water with good quality, aged balsamic vinegar, which adds sweet, natural goodness to liquor-free beverages and cocktails. Quality balsamic has been aged for approximately 12 years in Modena, Italy — just as true champagne must come from the Champagne region of France.

Much of what is labeled balsamic vinegar in the United States is primarily wine vinegar and has a distinct sour flavor. But true balsamic, without additives, is naturally sweet because of the grapes from which it is made. “The good stuff” is a perfect addition to water, cocktails and other beverages, with specialty shops now offering flavored balsamics too.

Want to drink more water, but wishing for more flavor? Add balsamic. Trying to reduce your cola consumption? Choose chocolate-, espresso- or coffee-flavored balsamic for loads of flavor and a dose of caffeine. Want to add a touch of fruit and natural sugar to iced tea? Lemon Sicilian balsamic vinegar, or peach balsamic, offer unprocessed sweetness and natural flavor.

Now back to those cocktails. Several times each month, Somerset Ridge Vineyard and Winery offers wine tastings at The Tasteful Olive, an olive oil and vinegar shop in downtown Overland Park where I work part time. One day Somerset Ridge co-owner, Cindy Reynolds, and I created several flavor combinations using their wines and the store’s balsamic vinegars. Our favorites included:

▪ Ambrosia dessert wine with peach balsamic vinegar

▪ Citron (made from white wine, organic lemons and brandy) and apricot balsamic

▪ Avalon (apple dessert wine) and Cranberry Pear balsamic

▪ Ruby Port with chocolate balsamic

▪ Tawny Port plus espresso balsamic

The next time you find yourself wishing for natural fruit flavor and sweetness in sparkling water, a cocktail or another beverage, consider some new taste possibilities and add some good quality balsamic vinegar to your drink.

Lisa Waterman Gray is a freelance writer based in Overland Park. She specializes in food and travel writing.

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