How to Drink and Cook with Sweet-Tart Verjus

verjus wine purple background
Photo by Tom Arena

Pronounced vair-ZHOO, but also known as “verjuice” in American English, verjus is made from unripe (green) grapes harvested early-on in the growing season.

Around since at least the Middle Ages, it was traditionally crafted from thinned grapes, those removed to encourage better ripening of the remaining fruit and decrease harvest yield. The fruit is crushed and pressed, but the resulting juice is never fermented, and, therefore, doesn’t contain a lick of alcohol.

Today, verjus is produced at select wineries, and it’s come back into vogue in both kitchens and drinking glasses. Ahead, more about the stuff and how to get acquainted.

What It Tastes Like

Flavors can vary somewhat, depending where grapes are grown and the varieties used. In general, verjus is sweet-tart and sour, thanks to the grapes’ just-developing sugars, gentler than vinegar, and more complex than citrus. Red expressions are typically mild and possibly piquant, while white verjus can swing from polite to totally exuberant.

How to Cook With It

Because it’s less acidic than vinegar, verjus is prized for its ability to complement wine and food pairings. Substituted in a vinaigrette, it’s amicable to all sorts of salads. It’s also interchangeable with wine or vinegar in most other cooking applications.

“I love it in poaching liquid,” says Julia Sherman, cook and author of Salad for President (Harry N. Abrams, 2017). She recently collaborated on a first-ever, low-alcohol sparkling verjus called Jus Jus. “Poached fruit…in verjus syrup is divine. And I use it to deglaze a pan when making chicken.”

American Bottles to Look For

Kokomo Verjus

Montinore Estate Verjus

Wölffer Estate Verjus

How to Drink It

Aside from Sherman’s fermented version, you won’t want to down verjus on its own. (It’d be too sour.) But it can lend an intriguing, crisp component to cocktails.

“It adds an acidic complexity that you don’t get with citrus or vinegar,” says Mike Del Grosso, owner of Canoe Hill cocktail bar in Millbrook, New York. Try it instead of lemon in a Whiskey Sour or Bees Knees, or, even better, in drinks that incorporate other wine- or grape-based ingredients like a Gin Sling or Sidecar.

Published on August 4, 2020
Topics: Drinks