Vinegar has been a kitchen staple for centuries, but recently, it’s become one of the most popular pantry items out there. Head to a bar, and there’s likely a shrub on the menu. Or scan TikTok, find anyone talking about cottagecore, and maybe they’re making their own vinegar.
But the vinegar trend goes beyond restaurants and social media: Brands are getting in on the action, too. There’s Acid League, which makes artisanal vinegars, Pineapple Collaborative, which sells apple cider vinegar made in California, and even the trendy olive oil company Brightland is in on the action (not to mention we have some great ones in our shop, too).
So why vinegar and why now? Well, according to Atara Bernstein, Co-Founder of Pineapple Collaborative, there are a few different explanations.
One, she says, is the “aesthetic quality of vinegar.” She points to foods like tofu, tempeh, and other “hippie foods” becoming popular because of a nostalgia for “70s culture,” in the food space.
It certainly does look good: Browse any collection of bottles from Acid League or the like, and you’ll find beautiful bottles worthy of displaying on your kitchen counter.
Of course, though, it can’t all be aesthetics. Bernstein points to another reason for its uptick in popularity. “Vinegar is tapping into the zeitgeist is as a response to the pandemic,” she says. “People are really interested in homestead and cottagecore, and people really want to preserve their own food and give back to the land.” Not only does vinegar help reduce waste through pickling and preservation, but it’s also an activity to try at home: After all, it’s fairly easy to brew your own batch.
There are a few additional reasons Bernstein points to, as well. First, the economy. Food and grocery items across the board are getting more expensive, and vinegar is relatively inexpensive. Second is the potential for a medicinal or health benefit. “[Vinegar] is great for people trying to focus on preventive health. It helps with gut health and digestive health because of the probiotics in it,” she says.
Lauren Ralph, who runs a cooking Instagram, agrees, adding that she loves using Acid League’s different vinegars for their purported gut health benefits. “They use raw and unfiltered [vinegar], making it a great source of prebiotics,” she explains.
So perhaps it’s a combination of all of the factors that makes vinegar so powerful, plus one more: its delicious taste.
For Emily Kate Johnson, Owner/Operator of Nostalgia Room in Lawrence, Kansas, vinegar is both a way to add rich flavor and to uplift great craftspeople. At Nostalgia Room, Johnson uses Acid League’s Rosé Living Vinegar in a cocktail called Lola’s Lace and finds that it helps add “depth and complexity,” especially in drinks with little-to-no alcohol. “It gives an acidic bite that can be missing when you don’t have a 90-proof spirit to base a drink on,” she says.
The bottom line is clear: Vinegar has been here for centuries, and it isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.
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