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Shrub Cocktails: Drink to Better Health!

I first learned about shrub cocktails from a book I purchased while on a family vacation in Amsterdam. We went on a genever spirits (a juniper-flavored liquor) tour and I was intrigued by the Jerry Thomas Bartenders Guide, 1862 Reprint sold in the gift shop. Many consider this the very first cocktail book and it includes drinks that we still make today such as the Mint Julep and Champagne Cocktail. In addition to cocktails, the guide includes recipes for punches, syrups, and shrubs.

What are Shrubs, Anyway?

The word “shrub” is derived from the Arabic word sharāb, which translates to “beverage” or “to drink” in English. Shrubs were popular during Colonial America as a method for preserving fresh fruit. Jerry Thomas’ original recipe for a raspberry shrub consists of just three ingredients: vinegar, raspberries, and sugar. A wine glass of brandy was then added to each pint of the finished shrub.

“Two spoonfuls of this mixed with a tumbler of water, is an excellent drink in warm weather, and in fevers.” – Jerry Thomas

Simply put, shrubs are kinds of vinegar flavored with fruit and sweetened with sugar. Herbs and spices can be added to create unique flavor combinations. These “drinking vinegars” have both a tart and sweet flavor that can be enjoyed on its own or as a mixer.

Why Drink Shrub Cocktails?

For Health and Wellness

Many people believe in the health benefits of a daily morning shot of apple cider vinegar. Many of the “health and wellness tonics” on the market today are actually forms of shrubs. If you want to include vinegar into your diet, homemade shrubs are an easier, less expensive, and tastier way to do it!

shrub cocktails

For Hydration

We all know how important it is to consume enough water, but plain water can get a little boring. Drinking shrub sodas can help boost your daily water consumption.

For Reducing Alcohol Consumption

In recent years, shrubs have become a popular cocktail ingredient. The demand for zero-proof and low-alcohol drinks has been steadily rising. According to Nielsen, “Within bars and restaurants, no and low-alcohol beer is the fifth-fastest growing beer type in the U.S., and has a total value of $77 million. And at retail, non-alcoholic beverages are worth $7 billion more than just four years ago. In the last year alone, retail sales of non-alcoholic beverages have posted sales growth of $1.1 billion.”

Gone are the days where a person can only order a Shirley Temple or a soda at the bar. Today, there are many high-quality, sophisticated, non-alcoholic options available. Mixologists are crafting their own ingredients, like fresh juices, bitters and shrubs, and developing new creative recipes to mix them in. Bottled shrubs are available on the commercial market as well.

How to Make A Shrub

Although the original recipe followed a ratio of 3-parts fruit to 1-part vinegar, today’s standard shrub ratio is equal parts fruit, sugar, and vinegar.

Use any fruits for shrubs. In fact, it’s a great way to use your overripened or bruised fruit! As for sugar, popular options include cane, granulated, and turbinado sugar. For vinegars, you may choose from apple cider, balsamic, red wine, or champagne vinegar, to name a few. Below are some recipes that I tried at home. I especially enjoyed the Strawberry-Balsamic Shrub in a homemade vinaigrette and the cranberry shrub as an addition to my drinks:

Cranberry Shrub

  • 1 c. cranberries
  • 1 c. cane sugar
  • 1 c. apple cider vinegar

Strawberry-Balsamic Shrub

  • 1 c. hulled and sliced strawberries
  • ½ c. cane sugar
  • ½ c. balsamic vinegar

Cherry Shrub

  • 2 c. frozen pitted cherries
  • 1 c. red wine vinegar
  • 1 c. cane sugar

Berry Shrub

  • 1 lb. fresh berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, or any combination)
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 c. apple cider vinegar

Keep in mind that shrubs have a distinctive tart, vinegar-taste. Have fun trying different combinations of fruit, sugar, and vinegar! You can even play with the ratios to adjust the tartness and sweetness more to your liking.

Process

making shrub cocktails

There are a few methods for crafting shrubs, but this is the easiest:

  1. Wash and prepare the fruit (lightly crush berries, hulled and quarter strawberries, slice or grate apples, quarter and pit stone fruits).
  2. Combine prepared fruit, sugar, and vinegar in a bowl.
  3. Place in the refrigerator for a few days until the sugar is dissolved. Shake or stir periodically to help dissolve the sugar.
  4. Strain out the solids and store the liquid in another airtight container.
  5. Keep shrub refrigerated and use within a month.

Shrub Cocktails

When making cocktails, acids like citrus are often used to balance the sweetness in the drink. Use your favorite shrub vinegar in place of the citrus component.

Cherry Shrub Old Fashioned

cherry shrub old fashioned

  1. Fill an old-fashioned glass with ice.
  2. Add 1 jigger of whiskey and 1 tsp. cherry shrub.
  3. Top with club soda and stir.
  4. Garnish with an orange slice and maraschino cherry.
Sparkling Cranberry Shrub Cocktail

cranberry shrub cocktails

  1. Add a small amount of cranberry shrub to a champagne flute.
  2. Top with sparkling cider, champagne, or prosecco.
Summer Shrub Cocktail

  1. Pour 2 oz. sweet vermouth into a glass.
  2. Add 1 – 2 tsp. flavored shrub.
  3. Top with seltzer or club soda for a light and refreshing drink.
Non-Alcoholic Soda

non alcoholic shrub cocktail

  1. Fill a glass with ice.
  2. Add a splash of shrub and top with sparkling water/seltzer/club soda.
  3. Garnish with the fruit used in the shrub (e.g., apple slice for an apple shrub or fresh strawberry for a strawberry shrub).

Serving Shrubs

Incorporate shrubs into some of these other dishes:

Dessert

Drizzle a berry shrub over a bowl of vanilla ice cream for a refreshing dessert.

Iced or Hot Tea

Add some berry shrub to iced tea for an energizing summer drink. Or try some apple shrub in hot black tea to enjoy in the fall!

Vinaigrette

Replace vinegar with a shrub in your vinaigrette recipes.

>READ: OUR FAVORITE POOLSIDE COCKTAILS

>READ: SPRINGTIME BRUNCH COCKTAILS

Summertime Shrub Cocktail Recipe Sparkling Cranberry Shrub Cocktail RecipeOld Fashioned Cherry Shrub Cocktail Recipe

 

 

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