Elements: Verjus - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

Elements: Verjus

Fermented grape juice tends to get all the love, but its non-boozy counterpart has played a solid supporting role throughout history. Verjus—the unfermented, high-acid juice pressed from young wine grapes—is the unsung hero of the drinks world. Since at least as far back as the Middle Ages, verjus was used across Europe for its bright, tart character prior to the arrival of citrus. Today, verjus (from the French vert jus, “green juice”) is still a go-to ingredient for bringing flavorful complexity to both cocktails and cuisine.

“I use verjus as a replacement for citrus juice in highballs and sour cocktails, as it lends itself to more delicate sours and offers a slightly rounder palate than its citrus counterparts,” says Kate Boushel, director of beverage and education for Montreal’s Groupe Barroco. Boushel notes that verjus has a lower density than citrus juice, so it’s often important to compensate with heavier syrups to reach the desired texture in the final cocktail. In her Entre Temps cocktail, Boushel uses a tablespoon of jam to add both sweetness and body to the herbaceous gin drink.

Once an esoteric ingredient, verjus can now be found in specialty-food stores or online. Many brands are imported from France, while American winemakers like Wölffer Estate and Scribe Winery also produce their own verjus. Jason Hedges, beverage director for Laurent Tourondel Hospitality in New York City, co-founder of Bar IQ, and author of The Seasonal Cocktail, notes that verjus can add bright, tangy flavors to cocktails such as spritzes that nicely balance other ingredients. Hedges also swaps verjus for citrus juice in everything from Daiquiris to Whiskey Sours—just be careful not to overpower the other ingredients with too much acidity, he says. “If you’re using verjus in a cocktail that already has other sour ingredients like lemon juice or vinegar, you’ll need to balance the flavors carefully.”

The bright, complex flavors of verjus also make it a natural fit for spirit-free cocktails. At Cure in New Orleans, head bartender Liz Kelley sought to craft a zero-proof cocktail that wasn’t reliant on citrus. Her V&T appeals to the classic Gin & Tonic drinker, with a crisp, botanical profile. “We finish our Verjus & Tonic with rosemary, grapefruit oil, and juniper berries,” Kelley says, noting that the base would also complement a variety of fruits and herbs, once again proving the versatility of verjus as both supporting player and star.

Verjus Whiskey Sour

Swapping the lemon juice for verjus adds a tart complexity to this classic cocktail.

2 oz. bourbon
1 oz. verjus
3/4 oz. simple syrup (1:1)
1 fresh egg white (pasteurized if you like)

Tools: shaker, strainer, fine strainer
Glass: rocks
Garnish: cherry and orange crescent

Add all of the ingredients to a shaker without ice and shake until foamy. Add ice and shake again to chill, then double strain into an ice-filled glass and garnish.

Jason Hedges, New York City

Entre Temps

Verjus brings a balanced brightness to this herbaceous, fruit-forward gin cocktail.

2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. verjus
1 heaping tablespoon of berry jam (blackberry, blueberry, or raspberry)
1 dash Bittered Sling Lem-Marrakech bitters (optional)

Tools: shaker, strainer, fine strainer
Glass: cocktail
Garnish: 1-2 sprigs of fresh tarragon

Shake all of the ingredients with ice, double strain into a chilled glass, then garnish.

Kate Boushel, Groupe Barroco, Montreal


Crisp and botanical, this spirit-free twist on a Gin & Tonic sets verjus to work as a base-spirit replacement.

1 1/2 oz. verjus
1 1/2 oz. tonic water
1 oz. chilled soda water
3 juniper berries (optional)
3-5 drops Angostura bitters 

Tools: barspoon
Glass: wine
Garnish: rosemary sprig, grapefruit peel

Combine all of the ingredients in an ice-filled glass and gently stir to combine. Express a grapefruit peel over the drink and place in the glass as a garnish, along with a sprig of rosemary.

Liz Kelley, Cure, New Orleans

Enjoy This Article?

Sign up for our newsletter and get biweekly recipes and articles delivered to your inbox.

Send this to a friend