Up until a few months ago, if you had asked me for the definition of a shrub, I would have told you it was a short scrubby bush (of the plant variety). But guess what? A shrub is also something you can drink. At its heart, a shrub is a vinegar drink (hold on there) that uses a sweetened vinegar as the base for either a cocktail or non-alcoholic drink. I swear I did not make this up.
The vinegar drink, called a shrub, dates back to colonial days. Back then, the sweetened vinegar mixture was mixed with water as a nice refreshing drink. Remember back then they didn’t have refrigeration, so this was another way (along with pickling) to preserve and enjoy seasonal fruits. Remember, they also didn’t have the convenience of packaged fruit juice and soda back then either. But I get it…the thought of drinking vinegar curls your toes and wrinkles your nose…but this isn’t just straight up vinegar. I’ve posted strawberry cocktail recipes before, but none quite as interesting as this strawberry shrub.
The tartness of the vinegar along with the fruit, herbs and sugar is something that’s really delicious. Think of it as a homemade fruit vinegar (which is what it is). You can also think of this just like you would any of those other drink syrups (those flavored syrups you pour into coffee or the simple syrup you make for other cocktails). There are lots of bars that have been bringing back some of these traditional cocktail methods. You’ve probably seen the jars of mysterious concoctions behind the bartender and wondered what they were making back there. Between the infused spirits and shrub drink syrups it’s getting a little crowded on the back bar.
But bartenders aren’t the only one’s who can make these drink syrups. They’re easy to make at home. And you can use them in drinks as well as in your cooking. (If you cook down and reduce this vinegar drink…you get what’s called a gastrique. I posted a gastrique that I then used in a cocktail and in a salad. Click the link and you can easily find it.)
I knew I wanted to make some really interesting strawberry cocktail recipes this summer, so the first of the drink syrups that I made (yes, I made more than one) was made from strawberries and peaches. Although the vinegar drink that I am posting today is of the cocktail variety, these drink syrups are a fantastic alternative to sodas. In fact, many restaurants have begun to offer them in place of soda. All you need to do is mix some of the shrub with soda water, club soda, ginger ale or a lemon lime soda and you have a super refreshing drink. The really fun part about these vinegar drinks is that you can do all kinds of things with them. Mix them with any of your favorite alcohols (just use the drink syrups in the same proportions as you would use citrus in your cocktail). Mix a couple of tablespoons of them into a vinaigrette dressing. Reduce it down a little bit and use it as a glaze for meat or fish. The shrubs also last at least a couple of months in your refrigerator so you’ve got plenty of time to use them. So what flavor combination are you going to make with all the great fruit that’s coming in now?
Recipe: Strawberry Cocktail Recipes: The Strawberry Shrub
Summary: Makes Approximately 1 1/2 Cups of Shrub
For the Shrub
- 10 Peach Pits with Surrounding Peach (see peaches and biscuits recipe)
- 1/4 Cup Sliced Strawberries (hulls removed)
- 1/4 Cup Mint Leaves
- 1 Cup Sugar
- 1 Cup Champagne Vinegar
For the Strawberry Shrub Cocktail
- 1 Ounce Hendricks Gin
- 1 Ounce Water
- 1 Ounce Strawberry Shrub
- 3 Dashes Absinthe
For the Shrub
- Pour the first 4 ingredients into a large, sealable, jar and mix them up.
- Cover the jar and place it in the refrigerator for 3 days. Shake the jar at least once a day. (By the 3rd day you’ll notice that the majority of the sugar has dissolved.)
- Pour the mixture into a strainer to separate the juice from the pits, leaves and seeds.
- Pour into a clean jar and add the vinegar.
- Shake everything up and you’re ready to use your shrub.
For the Strawberry Shrub Cocktail
- Pour the first three ingredients into a cocktail shaker add ice.
- Cover and shake vigorously.
- Stain into a champagne coupe and add the Absinthe.
- Garnish with a strawberry.
I used the peach pits that were left over from the peaches and biscuit recipe I posted earlier. There was plenty of peach on them. If you’re using plain peaches, you’ll want to use 1/2 cup of cut up (peeled) peaches.
Try substituting the strawberries with raspberries (also very good). Try mixing up your own concoctions.
Preparation time: 72 hour(s) Cooking time:
Diet type: Vegetarian
Diet tags: Gluten free
Number of servings (yield): 1
Culinary tradition: USA (Traditional)