MEET ACID LEAGUE: THE EXPERIMENTAL VINEGAR COMPANY PUSHING THE CATEGORY TO THE NEXT LEVEL
A cursory glance at the Acid League website quickly reveals that the Toronto-based vinegar company isn’t selling what you’d typically find on grocery store shelves. In place of generic red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar and balsamic vinegar there’s raw, unfiltered “Living Vinegars” in flavors like strawberry rosé, mango jalapeño and smoked malt. Things get even weirder on their “Experimental Editions” page, featuring limited-release products described as “flavor tripping experiments in acid.” Here you’ll find vinegars made from celery stalks, roasted coconut and Kahlúa, plus jams and marmalades featuring their vinegars.
The brand officially launched just last month, and its core line of living vinegars are available at Whole Foods locations. Their co-founders include two food scientists (Cole Pearsall and Allan Mai) and a serial entrepreneur (Scott Friedmann). Acid League’s creative director, Rae Drake, is a wine and sake expert.
This curiosity was the spark that ultimately led to co-founding a craft vinegar brand, and since then the team has made 500 different vinegars using a wide range of ingredients. “We tried fermenting just about everything—coffee, Campari, bourbon, cantaloupe juice, saffron, chamomile, fresh strawberry juice—and we started to get some incredible results,” Friedmann said. Friedmann told me that a meal at the reopened Noma in Copenhagen and reading The Noma Guide to Fermentation led him to start experimenting with making vinegar in his basement. “The first question I asked myself was why isn’t there more alternative vinegar out there? Why can’t you get vinegar in interesting flavors given that you make vinegar out of almost anything?” Friedmann said.
Friedmann saw a gaping hole in the vinegar market for Acid League to fill, given how little the category has changed on grocery store shelves and the recent obsession with apple cider vinegar and gut health. He founded Acid League with the idea of creating gut-healthy vinegars that led with the gastronomic side of things.
Consumers may be surprised to know that some of Acid League’s tastiest vinegars have been made using vegetables. “It’s amazing how things like celery, carrot, tomato and basil turn into these umami versions of themselves,” Friedmann said. “If you give somebody a bottle of our Garden Heat or celery vinegar, it doesn’t just have this life essence of the vegetable—it gets better.” He added that these vinegars made from vegetables may surprise people as most mainstream vinegars on the market are made using grapes and apples.
The Acid League team’s experimenting days are far from over, and they have plans to become a food company that releases one new product a week (on the direct-to-consumer side of things). These products will live on the Experimental Editions page and include limited-run batches of vinegars, sauces, pickles, drinking vinegar, vinaigrettes, shrubs and more.