Drinking vinegars at Sway are a tangy, refreshing treat. Photo by Alice Fox.

Upscale Thai restaurants in the U.S., including Pok Pok in Portland and Sway in Austin, have reintroduced drinking vinegars to popular food culture — but Americans were drinking them by the gallon in the pre-Coca Cola days, all the way back to the colonial era. Those drinking vinegars, called shrubs, were considered a healthful tonic and a tangy alcohol-free alternative to hard spirits.

Sweetened vinegar-based drinks are making a comeback, thanks to those Thai restaurants. Sway shared its base recipe for beet or strawberry drinking vinegars. The technique calls for a Vitamix, but you can soak the cut-up fruit in vinegar and simple syrup for a similar effect — it will just take longer to make.

Drinking Vinegar

3 1/2 cups beets (peeled and cubed) or hulled strawberries
2 cups simple syrup
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
Soda water, for serving

Working in batches, combine ingredients in a high-powered blender, such as a Vitamix. Start on a low speed and slowly increase to high. Blend until ingredients are combined and juice is extracted, about 15 to 30 seconds. Strain contents through a fine mesh sieve.

Use a small ladle to push down on mixture to extract flavor. This will take several minutes. Allow mixture to sit and separate, then skim off foam. Pour 2 ounces of the mixture over a glass half filled with soda water and crushed ice. Garnish with a lemon twist or Thai basil.

— Sway