A shrub is a drinking vinegar. Typically, it is made by mixing vinegar with either fresh fruit or fruit juice. Shrubs add a new level of complexity, savoriness, and sweetness to a more standard cocktail.
Shrubs can be made from a wide variety of fruits and any vinegar with over 5% acidity. The general steps are the same regardless of what products you choose.
- Prepare the fruit. For berries, this can be as simple as thoroughly washing. Other fruits, such as peaches, require more processing.
- Clean the container thoroughly. It is important to avoid contamination whenever you are allowing high sugar items to sit for an extended period. To be safe, use a glass container that can be sterilized with boiling water.
- Boil fruit and desired amount of sugar together until they begin to thicken.
- Add vinegar and heat just to the just to the boiling point. Immediately remove from heat and pour into sterilized container. Leave .5 inches of headspace.
- Store the shrub in a cool dark place and allow the flavor to develop. Depending on the fruit, this can be achieved in as little as two days to as long as four weeks.
- Thoroughly strain the shrub until there is no cloudiness.
- Stored in the refrigerator, the shrub should stay good for at least six months.
I happened to have a large supply of blueberries when I got this notion in my head, so I decided to make a blueberry shrub. I also love balsamic vinegar, so my immediate reaction was to use that as my base. However, the wonderfully knowledgeable and responsive r/cocktails community warned me that if I used only balsamic vinegar it would completely overwhelm the fruit flavor. So, I went with 2/3 rice wine vinegar and 1/3 balsamic vinegar.
The shrub came out a bit sweet for my taste, so I’ll probably reduce the sugar a bit the next time I make it, but it would probably be perfect for most taste buds.
2 cups blueberries, muddled
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
Simply follow the instructions above and you’ll be able to enjoy a delicious nonalcoholic or alcoholic drink in short order.
To create a wonderful nonalcoholic drink, fill a tall glass with ice, add 1.5 oz of the blueberry shrub, and top with sparkling water. The drink will be beautifully layered, but I recommend stirring to get the full flavor with every sip.
When I tried the shrub with just sparkling water, it occurred to me that it would go quite nicely with the light and botanical spirit, gin.
Gin and blueberry shrub
1.5 oz blueberry shrub
1.5 oz gin
.5 oz cranberry juice (optional)
sparkling water to top
- Fill tall glass with ice, add blueberry shrub, gin, and lime juice (if desired).
- Top with sparkling water and gently stir.
I added the cranberry juice to my own and left it out of Matt’s. Each of us thought our respective drink was delicious!
After trying shrubs out, it definitely seems like all of the hype is well deserved. Not only are they delicious, but they will also last for several months so you can enjoy the fruits of your labor (pun intended) for quite some time.