Are you ready to start drinking shrubs? No, not the kind you grow in the garden, but the kind made of vinegar, sugar, fruits, herbs and vegetables from the garden. Shrub, which is derived from the word “sharab,” which means “to drink” in Arabic, was all the rage in colonial times. And today, you’ll find it again as the hot mixer in trendy bars from Brooklyn to the Bay Area. It’s simple to make your own and as a bonus, you can use fruits and vegetables you pick from your own garden. Here’s how:
Quart canning jar with lid
Fine sieve or cheesecloth
Ingredients (per quart)
2 cups vinegar
2 cups chopped fruit or vegetable (need only be chopped fine enough to fit through the mouth of the jar)
1-2 cups white sugar or honey
- Wash the quart jar well and sterilize it by boiling water in it in the microwave or submerging it in a deep pot, as you would for canning.
- Heat the vinegar in a small saucepan until just below the boiling point.
- While it heats, place your fruit or vegetable (or both!) combinations in the quart jar.
- Pour the hot vinegar over the fruit (a funnel makes this easier) and seal the jar.
- Leave the jars to steep, unrefrigerated, anywhere from 3 days to 6 weeks depending on how intense a flavor you’re after.
- When that is done, strain the fruit out of the vinegar and add it to a saucepan with the sugar or honey, bringing it to a gentle boil until the sugar is dissolved.
- Let the shrub cool and then pour it into a sterilized container (wash and re-sterilize the original quart jar if you like). Store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
- Any sort of vinegar will work in a shrub. White vinegar gives the cleanest taste while apple cider vinegar lends a fruity flavor. Balsamic works particularly well with berries. Blend flavored vinegars to find the perfect complement to your fruit, vegetable and herb bases.
- The sky’s the limit when it comes to what fruits and vegetables should go in your shrub. Some great combinations include:
- Raspberry and blueberry
- Apple, cranberry and cinnamon stick
- Blueberry and lavender
- Watermelon and basil
- Sliced lemons and nutmeg
- Strawberry and peppercorn (with balsamic vinegar)
- Add one or two halved hot peppers to any shrub combination for a spicy kick to your final drink.
Using Shrub to Mix Drinks
- Use shrub to add a modern twist to your cocktails: apple-cranberry shrub instead of cranberry juice in a cosmo; lemon-lime shrub in a gimlet; berry-based shrub in a daiquiri. Or invent your own new takes on old cocktail combinations.
- Added to simple soda water, shrubs create an interesting and adult non-alcoholic drink that’s refreshing for everyone and particularly welcome by nondrinkers, who are too often stuck sipping sugary sodas.
Shrub is an old idea that’s become new again, and to the benefit of drinkers and non-drinkers alike. It’s easy to make your own and a chance to showcase both the fruits of your garden and your own creativity. Plus, what gardener can resist the call to take a long, cool sip of a shrub?