Have you ever had a shrub? Not the short, green bushes you might be thinking of, but the drinking vinegar? These historical beverages are a refreshingly tart alternative to pop and are very easy to make with whatever produce you have available according to the seasons.
Where did the name come from? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term “shrub” in the context of describing a beverage is derived from the Arabic word, “šariba” which means ‘to drink. ’ This is likely due to the earliest English version of shrubs around the 15th century. These drinks were similar to a Persian beverage made of honey-sweetened vinegar, known as Sekanjabin.
Vinegar was often used to preserve fruit for the off-season in 17th Century England, which then was brought over to the American colonies. These syrups were often mixed with water, soda water, or stirred into cocktails. Despite their deliciousness, these drinks fell out of popularity with the rise of at-home refrigeration.
In this era of Apple Cider Vinegar shots and cleanses, Shrubs are making a comeback! You may have seen them in the store or on the cocktail menu of your favorite bar. To be honest, I almost prefer a shrub with sparkling water over any cocktail out there…so that’s why I started making my own.
Shrubs can be made by following a simple ratio of equal amounts fruit, sugar, andvinegar and just a little bit of your time. The fruit can even be frozen, so you can make these all year long! So far, I have made lemon basil, lime elderflower, grapefruit rosemary, apple cinnamon, & blueberry thyme, all using white sugar and apple cider vinegar. However, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, and even rice vinegars could be used! The possibilities are endless.
Here’s how I made blueberry-thyme shrub:
First, whip out your digital scale and set the tare on a pint Mason Jar or any sealablecontainer. Then, I added about 200 grams frozen northern Michigan blueberries and thyme sprigs. Top that with 200 grams of sugar. Mix together then let that hang together in the fridge for a day or two, stirring or inverting when it occurs to you. Then measure out 200 grams of Apple Cider Vinegar and add to jar, mixing well. Let that mingle together in the fridge for about a week before stirring. Strain through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth and voila! A delightful shrub.
I like the shrubs mixed with just sparkling water for a midday refresher. As a cocktail mixer, this blueberry-thyme shrub would also pair well with Grand Traverse Distillery Vodka or Ann Arbor Distilling Company Gin.
Let me know what combinations you come up with and what you do with them!
Follow this link for a great resource for your at-home shrub making here
Emma Beauchamp is the Communications Manager for Taste the Local Difference. She currently lives in Ann Arbor where she often has at least one experiment going on in the kitchen. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org