I made a pact with myself that if a shrub or a shrub cocktail appears on a menu, I must order it. So far it’s been working out really well for me, and I highly recommend you give it a try. Shrub, a fruity drinking vinegar, is sweet and sour and tangy—the beverage equivalent of a shoulder shimmy, if you will. It just feels good. With roots in 17th century America, the term “shrub” can refer to a vinegar-based syrup, or the drink made from mixing the syrup with liqueur or carbonated water. Shrub is also a really excellent way to use up the mounds of fruit you couldn’t help but buy last week at the farmer’s market, but are now just starting to mush.
Stone fruit like plums, peaches, cherries, and apricots make a delightfully tart shrub base. Since strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries are already super sweet, they also hold up really well to the vinegar-based syrup. The simple mixture of fruit, vinegar, and sugar make a bright, zingy drink you’ll want to sip in the sun every afternoon, preferably from a porch swing.
Shrub can be made via hot or cold processing. Whether you choose to heat or not to heat is ultimately a personal decision, mostly having to do with how quickly you’d like to drink your shrub. The hot method will be ready in less than an hour, while the cold-processed shrub will take about two days. Some say the cold processed shrub makes a purer flavor, and I am one of those people. So here we go.
Wash 1 cup of fruit (in case you’re wondering, my favorite for shrubs is white peach) and either cut or mash it. Berries can be mashed, strawberries should be hulled and quartered, stone fruit should be pitted and sliced into about the size of a quartered strawberry.
Place the fruit in a nonreactive bowl and cover with 1 cup of sugar. Feel free to swap in brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup, but know that while it’s not a bad thing, these sweeteners will affect the punch of the fruit flavor in the final product. Stir the mixture, cover, and place in the fridge. Stir the fruit every 12 hours, or y’know, whenever you remember. It’s not an exact science.
After about 48 hours, the fruit and sugar should look very soupy. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a clean liquid measuring cup, saving the fruit to blend into a smoothie or drop onto a bowl of plain yogurt.
OK, so now’s about the time that you realized shrub sounds delicious and you want to drink it immediately, right? You want to know how to make the speedy version, don’t you? I get it. Mix 1 cup of sugar into 1 cup water over medium low heat until the sugar dissolved. Toss in 1 cup smashed or chopped fruit and cook until the fruit is wilted and the mixture is bubbly. Pull the pan from the heat and strain into a liquid measuring cup. Both methods finish with the same step.
Pour in about 1 cup of vinegar (a blend of 3 parts apple cider and 1 part champagne vinegar is my favorite, sometimes with a splash of balsamic for good luck). Whisk the fruit syrup and vinegar together, then strain once again. Pour the shrub through a funnel into a clean bottle and store in the fridge until ready to drink.
While every shub-maker will serve the beverage a bit differently, I maintain that the best method is 1 part shrub to two parts seltzer, shot of bourbon or gin optional.