If you’re up on your culinary or cocktail geekery, you may be nodding your head knowingling and thinking: of course verjus works in drinks! Though it’s been on the bartender and drinks enthusiast radars for a number of years, there are still many of us left with just a vague notion of what it is and how to use it. So, let’s take a deeper dive into Verjus and how to work it into your bar.
Verjus, “green juice” in French, is the juice squeezed from unripe grapes (either white or red), with the occasional crabapples or other acidic fruits thrown into the mix. In anglophone countries you may have heard it called verjuice.
This unfermented grape juice has been used in European and Middle Eastern kitchens since the middle ages to add an acidic element to dishes and heighten flavor. It’s usually a byproduct of wineries culling the grapes on the vines to allow the remaining grapes better growing conditions or otherwise having an excess of unripened grapes. It’s often made in France, but can be made and found anywhere there are grapes.
In more recent history, as access to acidic options like lemons, limes or tomatoes – regardless of growing seasons – became easier verjus hasn’t played such a starring role in the pantry.
However, there is a resurgence in its use over the past decade or so as chefs and bartenders discover its flavor profile and other useful qualities. In the kitchen you can use it where you would use citrus, vinegar or white wine. Deglaze your pans with it, mix it into salad dressings, or add it to sauces. There are plenty of recipes and recommendations online about how to use it in the kitchen. But, here, we like to talk about cocktails. So…
Verjus in the Bar
Cocktail enthusiasts love to seek out interesting and unusual ingredients. Verjus is one of those that’s not just an new ‘discovery’ but also a multitasking workhorse. In addition to its flavor profile, there are other reasons to incorporate it into your cocktails:
Citrus can have a large carbon footprint and isn’t in season year round. Verjus is a great acid alternative that’s a little more green. Some bars have moved entirely away from fresh citrus and onto alternative acidifiers like this. For home bars, once opened, a bottle can generally last for 2 to 3 months in the fridge, unlike citrus fruit that may go bad or get tossed if not used in time.
It’s great for mocktails
Verjus is unfermented and non-alcoholic so it’s a great way to bring an interesting element to your mocktails: something that feels sophisticated, interesting and adult. It’s like a secret ingredient that can bring a bit of caché to your non-alcoholic cocktails. Try this Verjus Spritz to get a taste of what I’m talking about.
It works great in cocktails
There are plenty of ways to incorporate this juice into your drinks programme. Use it to replace citrus in cocktails like collins or sours. Or amp up your classics and try something like this Verjus Manhattan over at Food and Wine.
It’s a multi-tasker
Verjus is one of those ingredients that works equally well in the bar as the kitchen. Multitaskers can create a welcome common thread through a food and cocktail pairing. Also when you can use something in both your food and drink it’s more likely to actually get used, meaning it doesn’t collect dust on the shelf, a waste of space and money.
It’s aesthetically interesting
Unlike citrus juice, verjus doesn’t doesn’t have pulp. Of course you can strain pulp out of citrus juice, but short of clarifying it, you won’t get a liquid as clean looking as verjus. It’s elegantly clear with an unexpected tartness. Or, if you’re using red verjus, you can get that acidic element plus a pretty red hue. So it’s a bit of a gustatory surprise for drinkers who expect something tart to be pulpy or a little cloudy.
Verjus Tips & Trivia
- Verjus keeps for a couple of months in the fridge, but you can freeze it in ice trays for longer storage and sporadic use
- Like lemons, grapes are living products so each verjus will have a slightly different flavor profile, so taste as you’re cooking/mixing and find brands that you love
- You can make your own – although it may be easier to source a good bottle of verjus than track down the appropriate unripe grapes.
- If you can’t find it in your regular shops, check in middle eastern shops or online boutiques
- Some articles might say verjus is a misnomer because the juice can come from white or red grapes. But what the ‘vert’ actually refers to in the name is the fact that the grapes are picked early (unripe fruit in French can be referred to as green/vert)
- It can go by many names: Agresto (Italy), Agraz (Spain), Ab-ghooreh (Middle East)
- It’s often made at wineries but can be made anywhere grapes are grown, including cognac and armagnac
- Though it’s a French word and plays a notable role in the traditions of French gastronomy, it’s not something you’ll find in most French kitchens these days.