Shrubs, also known as Drinking Vinegars, are having a revival. And for good reason— these tart and refreshing syrups add a punch of flavor to every beverage you put them in. And although you might never have heard of them, these fruit and vinegar based syrups are actually centuries old.
Before refrigeration was a thing, people poured vinegar over aging fruit to preserve it. They eventually began to use the syrup in drinks and cocktails around the 19th century.
I first discovered shrubs around 2016 when I was wondering around Ponce City Market in Atlanta, Georgia. I curiously picked up a bottled of locally made “drinking vinegar”. It made me think of the apple cider vinegar, honey, and water mixture my mother used to give us as kids at the very first sign of sniffles. I loved that stuff (it tasted a lot like kombucha).
My curiosity led me to start experimenting. I took every piece of aging fruit, threw it in a jar with sugar, and started making my own shrubs.
After mixing the shrubs with sparkling water, kombucha, and other drinks I was hooked. The sweet, tart, complex syrups brought a pleasing burst of flavor to everything.
Shrubs not only bring great flavor to drinks, they have great health benefits as well. They quench thirst, can help fight colds and viruses, and they make a great Zero Proof Cocktail.
Making a shrub is easy. It can be made using a cold steep, or, hot steep method.
For the cold steep method you put fruit and sugar in a mason jar for 24 hours or more. Then add vinegar, strain off the fruit, and bottle it. (The longer you leave it, the more it will ferment and begin to grow healthy bacteria. You can even leave it for months and make actual vinegar.)
For the hot steep method heat fruit, fruit peels, spices, sugar, and water in a small pot for 10-20 minutes. Then strain off the peels and spices, add vinegar, and bottle it.
I hope you get curious and make some shrubs of your own. You can start by making my Strawberry Shrub and mixing it into a Zero Proof Strawberry & Pineapple Margarita. Cheers!
- 1 lb. (16 oz.) fresh strawberries
- 1 3/4 cups (300 grams) raw sugar
- 2-6 Tbsp Strawberry Vinegar
- Rinse and dry the strawberries.
- Finely chop the strawberries.
- Place the strawberries and sugar in a quart mason jar. Put a lid on the mason jar and shake it to dissolve the sugar. (You might not dissolve all the sugar right away. You can shake it until the juices begin to mix with the sugar, leave it for an hour, then shake it again. Give it a shake every time you walk by the jar until all the sugar is dissolved.)
- Leave the jar of strawberries at room temperature for 24 hours.
- Strain the strawberry liquid into a clean jar and add the vinegar. Bottle and refrigerate.
The finer you chop the strawberries, the more juice you are likely to extract from them. Yields about 16 ounces.
You can mix the shrub with sparkling water or you can make a Zero Proof Margarita.
A note on vinegar: white vinegar is too strong to put into a shrub. Try using apple cider vinegar, champagne vinegar, or even a strawberry vinegar.