Shrubs, or drinking vinegars, are sweet and sour, fruit-based syrups that were all the rage in Colonial times. Preserving fruit in a blend of vinegar and sugar began as a shelf-stable way to incorporate fresh fruit flavors into drinks that could be enjoyed year-round. Today, history buff-mixologists are embracing the shrub as an infinitely versatile method to incorporate balanced fruit flavors into summertime-perfect cocktails.
Making your own shrubs at home couldn’t be easier, as they call for a simple one-to-one-to-one ratio of fruit to sugar to vinegar. When it comes to sugar, white is best; cider vinegar is a great jumping off point but Champagne, balsamic and wine vinegars also work beautifully, depending on your fruit of choice.
The key to creating truly unique shrubs lies in combining ingredients that pair well, embracing both the traditional and the unexpected by adding Spice Islands® herbs and spices into the mix.
The familiar duo of strawberry and balsamic gets an expected hint of woodsiness when a teaspoon or two of rosemary goes into the shrub. And while you’re letting that peach shrub sit with white wine vinegar, think about adding a bit of tarragon to elevate the aromatics factor. Citrus shrubs like orange or lemon benefit from the spice of ginger, while what watermelon really wants is some mint.
When it comes time to mix, all you have to do is grab a bottle of your preferred summer spirit — gin, vodka and blanco tequila all work very well — and grab the glassware. Drop in a few ice cubes, a couple of ounces of the good stuff, add shrub to taste, and top with sparkling water. You will have a versatile cocktail that will take you from early summer’s strawberries straight through to the last plums of the season.
Try these mixes and variations: Basic Shrub, Strawberry-Rosemary Balsamic Shrub and Peach-Tarragon Shrub. Cheers!