"Shrubs" - the other kind.

Shrubs - The Drinks 

A very old, and now new again (some even say old again) system of preserving fruit (or vegetables) in a vinegar and sugar mixture.   Historically, shrubs can be traced back to at least the days of the Roman Empire, as a drink for the lower classes and the military to help keep them hydrated and to quench thirst.  Using the final product as a flavoring for the drinks, it creates a sweet and sour delight for alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.  

Blackberry Raspberry Shrub - Photos by Jon Feldman

  • 1 cup fresh blackberries
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/14 cup apple cider vinegar
Total prep time: 20 minuters
Total time: 4 days

Combine all the berries and the sugar in a bowl and macerate the mixture to a pulp like consistency.  Cover and place in the fridge for one day.

The next day, mash the mixture through a sieve or fine mesh strainer.
Add the vinegar to the syrup mixture, cover, and place back in fridge for 3 more day.

Over those three days the vinegar flavor will mellow and absorb the sweetness and flavor the berries and sugars.  The key is experimentation.  Find the balance of fruit and vegetable flavors you enjoy together and create many wonderful cocktails.

Your shrub will last at least 3 weeks in the fridge, as these were originally meant to last longer than that.  Be smart, if it starts to develop a foul odor, disregard the above limits.

Your Shrub is now ready to serve.  This is where the fun starts.  The combinations are endless.  Lets start with a refreshing non-alcoholic drink.

  • 1 oz. Berry Shrub
  • 8 oz. Sparkling water
This simple concoction makes a refreshing and thirst quenching drink.  Not only can you adjust the proportions for your drink, but you can eventually adjust the shrub recipe to be sweeter or tarter, depending on your particular tastes.

Later in the 19th century, shrubs found their way into cognacs and and bourbons.
You can use any liquor to spice up your shrub. I have seen many combinations at new gastro-pubs or cocktail bars.  The Berry shrub goes particularly well with gin or vodka. But please, as I am a big advocate of eating well in this blog, I also urge you to drink well. Choose a quality brand for your cocktails.  Your body will thank you.

This is the cold version for making shrubs, but there is also a quicker hot version.  Generally, you place your fruit or vegetable in small pot with sugar and a little water. Simmer until the mixture creates a nice syrup.  Drain the mixture through a sieve, and then add your vinegar to the syrup.  Place in fridge for a day or two before you start using it as it will mellow with time.

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