Shrub Love

by Jade Shutes

Have you heard about shrubs? No, not the bushes in your garden! We’re talking about a trendy drink that’s making waves in the cocktail world. Let’s dive into the wonderful world of shrubs and discover why they’re becoming so popular.

What is a Shrub?

A shrub is a tangy, sweet, and acidic syrup made from fruit, sugar, and vinegar. It’s also known as a “drinking vinegar.” Don’t let that name scare you off – shrubs are delicious! They add a unique zing to cocktails and can even be enjoyed on their own mixed with sparkling water (mocktails).

The word “shrub” comes from the Arabic word “sharbah,” which means “drink.” People have been enjoying shrubs for centuries. Even ancient Romans and Babylonians mixed vinegar with water to make refreshing drinks. In the 16th to 18th centuries, sailors drank shrubs to prevent scurvy on long voyages.

Today, people are rediscovering shrubs and using them to create exciting new mocktails or cocktails.

Why Are Shrubs So Great?

Shrubs are versatile and add a complex flavor to drinks. They combine fruit sweetness and sugar with vinegar’s tanginess, creating a balanced, refreshing taste that can enhance many different cocktails.

Shrubs are also a great way to preserve fruit flavors. If you have a bumper crop of berries or other fruit from your garden, making a shrub is a delicious way to enjoy that flavor for months to come.

Choosing Your Ingredients

The great thing about shrubs is that you can use almost any fruit you like. Here are some tips for choosing your shrub ingredients:

Fruit: Berries, apples, pears, plums, and even cucumbers or rhubarb work well. Choose ripe, flavorful fruit for the best results.

Sugar: Regular white sugar works fine, but you can experiment with raw sugars like turbinado or demerara, or even brown sugar for a richer flavor.

Honey: Instead of sugar, you can use honey.

Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, or white wine vinegar are popular choices.

Extra Flavors: Herbs and spices can add extra depth to your shrub. Try basil, rosemary, rose petals, catnip, or ginger. About a tablespoon of herbs or spices is a good starting point.

A typical recipe uses two cups each of fruit, sugar, and vinegar. You can adjust this ratio to your taste. I often begin with less sugar or honey and decide how sweet I want it to be. Remember, you can always add more sugar or vinegar later if needed.

Flavor Combinations to Try

Over the past year, I’ve experimented with all sorts of shrub combinations. Here are a few of my favorites:

    1. Blackberry, Rose petals, and Catnip: I love this one in lemonade. It’s so refreshing!
    2. Strawberry, Basil, and Rose petals: This makes an amazing mojito even without the alcohol!
    3. Peach and Ginger: Try this with bourbon for a perfect summer cocktail.
    4. Mixed Berry: I use whatever berries we have in abundance – blackberries, blueberries, raspberries. It’s always delicious.

Don’t be afraid to get creative! Think about flavors that naturally go well together, like strawberry and basil or apple and cinnamon.

Using Your Shrub

Once you’ve made your shrub, there are many ways to enjoy it:

    1. Mix it with sparkling water for a refreshing non-alcoholic drink.
    2. Use it as a base for cocktails. It pairs well with many spirits like gin, vodka, rum, and whiskey.
    3. Drizzle it over salad as a tangy dressing.
    4. Use it as a glaze for roasted vegetables.
    5. Take a spoonful straight from the bottle for a quick flavor kick.

Shrub Love

Shrubs are a fascinating blend of old-world tradition and modern culinary trends. They offer a unique way to preserve fruit flavors and create complex, refreshing drinks. Whether you’re a cocktail enthusiast, a home cook, or just someone looking for a new flavor experience, shrubs are worth exploring.

Making your own shrubs at home is a fun and rewarding process. It allows you to experiment with flavors and create something truly unique. Plus, it’s a great way to use up extra fruit and enjoy those flavors long after the growing season has ended.

So why not give shrubs a try? Grab some fruit, sugar, and vinegar, and start experimenting. You might just discover your new favorite drink!

Remember, the world of shrubs is all about experimentation and personal taste. Don’t be afraid to try new combinations and adjust recipes to suit your palate. Happy shrub-making!