Food

Have You Had a Shrub?

Have You Had a Shrub?

Today, we’re rounding out our month of favorite summer recipes with a drink — and not just any drink. To us, shrubs feel like the beverage of summer. Here’s why…

Shrubs — fruit- and vinegar-based beverages — are having a major moment. For many of us, the words “vinegar” and “delicious fruity drink” do not go hand in hand. But shrubs are sweet, refreshing and a little bit tart. As it turns out, using vinegar in cocktails dates all the way back to the 18th century, when it was used to keep fruit from spoiling. As a result, shrub mixes have a long shelf life and are perfect for drinking in the warmer months.

It’s no wonder these mostly virgin cocktails have been popping up everywhere from legendary NYC deli Russ & Daughters to the pages of Martha Stewart Living to Lena Dunham’s Instagram. Our friend Alpha drank them during her honeymoon road trip through the South and makes them with watermelon or rhubarb.

If you’re interested in trying it out, here’s a basic shrub recipe from Bon Appétit. It calls for any ripe fruit, so you can customize it however you like. Add spirits for a classic cocktail, or whip up a virgin drink — just add sparkling soda for a refreshing, summery beverage.

Have You Had a Shrub?

Summer Fruit Shrub
(Makes four servings)

What you’ll need:

3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 pounds ripe fruit (such as peaches, strawberries, plums, or pineapple)
3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
6 ounces spirit of choice (typically gin, vodka or sparkling soda water)
2 ounces fresh lemon juice

Bring sugar and 1/2 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Slice fruit into pieces. Reserve a few pieces for serving and add the remaining fruit to the pan. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit 30 minutes. Strain syrup into a bowl; stir in vinegar. Cover and chill shrub.

For each cocktail, shake 2 oz. shrub, 1 1/2 oz. spirit (or sparkling soda) of choice, and 1/2 oz. lemon juice in an ice-filled cocktail shaker until frosty. Strain into an ice-filled glass; top with some of the reserved fruit.

Note: If you’re patient, you can keep your shrub in the fridge for a few days before mixing cocktails, for a more intense flavor.

Have you tried a shrub? Would you like to?

P.S. More recipes, including rosé sangria and a classic margarita.

(Photos by Alpha Smoot for Cup of Jo. Shrub recipe by Rick Martinez, reprinted with permission from Bon Appétit. This series is edited by Caroline Donofrio.)

  1. I love that home made shrubs are getting to be such a big thing. I work at a soda shrub bar and the fact that people are even starting to recognize the word makes me happy. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Shrubs are absolutely the summer drink of 2015! We’ve been making them at our olive mill…first was a strawberry and ginger shrub and now we’re doing a blueberry and lemon verbena. Delicious!

  3. I love shrubs! I even have special shrub glasses from Williamsburg VA!

    • Mary says...

      Where do they sell Shrub glasses in Williamsburg?

  4. Kristi says...

    My seven year old son adores (non-alcoholic) shrubs! I made a nice strawberry rhubarb one that he mixes with club soda and ice. Funny guy!

  5. Leslie says...

    I used this recipe to make raspberry and strawberry shrub syrups to mix into a gun cocktail. I substituted apple cider vinegar for white vinegar. They were both delicious, but the raspberry was the favorite. Thank you!

  6. Valerie says...

    At home we usually drink ‘shrubs’ for Christmas( home is in the Caribbean) and we use citrus to make it, no vinegar. The tart taste is achieved by keeping the white part of the citrus peel while macerating in rum. We also drink “lime punch”,( not just for Christmas) where you take the white out and just leave the green peel in rum: my favorite!

  7. Emily says...

    I can’t wait to try this!

  8. Jeanette says...

    So excited to make these! It will be fun to play around with different flavors. I don’t drink, so it’s nice to have a nice “mock”tail.

  9. I love shrubs! A friend turned me on to a loquat shrub in a cocktail and it was amazing! Just made some plum shrub with balsamic vinegar and am trying to come up with an appropriate cocktail to show it off. Someone mentioned adding herbs too–what a great idea.

  10. Stephanie says...

    This drink not only looks refreshing and lovely, but sounds totally delicious! I’ll definitely be making a pitcher of these this weekend.

    I’m a fashion blogger in NYC. To follow my adventures featuring the best of NYC’s fashion and food, check out sustenanceandstyle.com. Always looking to collaborate with new bloggers, so contact me! See you there xx

    – Stephanie

  11. Sam says...

    Champagne shrubs are my new favorite thing! Tart, sweet and bubbly! Perfection.

  12. I actually just tried one for the first time recently here in Sacramento where new drinks are all the rage. There’s a restaurant/bar that specializes in cocktails and housemade non-alcoholic drinks, and they have a strawberry shrub on the menu for summer. Yum!

  13. jenny says...

    Does anyone know the proper pronunciation of “shrub”? I ordered one once and said shrub, as in a synonym for bush, and the waitress said “oh you mean the shroob?”, as in rhymes with boob. Now I never know what to say!

  14. Abbey says...

    This sounds excellent! I’m cooking up some white peaches for my first shrub this very moment. (Shrub? An adorable word, but not one I would consider for a drink.)

    One question: does anyone have suggestions on what to do with the cooked mushy fruit after straining the liquid? Seems a pity to compost it. Surely there’s some dessert use out there.

    Thanks!

  15. I was obsessed with shrubs last summer while I was pregnant. I would make ones with grapefruit zest and apple cider vinegar. I haven’t had one since my daughter was born (and I can drink real alcohol again) but they would be awfully refreshing on these hot summer days.

  16. Isabella says...

    They’re great mixed with bubbly, too!

  17. Okay, willing to try buuuuuuut vinegar sounds gross. I also just am not a huge vinegar fan. But definitely going to give it a shot!

    – Kaitlyn | http://www.TheCrownFox.com

  18. A friend turned me on to these earlier this summer and I am totally hooked! There’s a shop on Cape Cod that makes some great ones (they even have a “shrub bar” on weekends) and so many easy recipes for them!

    I am trying to track down the perfect ginger shrub recipe if anyone knows of one but here’s a list of few of my favorite (think “Shrubs for Dummies”) recipes:
    http://megvandorn.blogspot.com/2015/05/summer-cocktail-season-shrub-mixers-for.htm

  19. We went to a friends house the other night for dinner and she offered me some, I figured since she’s a doctor she wasn’t going to poison me, but oh main it does smell like vinegar. At first I thought “this is awful!” Then I found it quickly grew on me, actually it gets kind of addictive. (In a good way).

  20. Anna says...

    Shrubs are the best remedy for heat exhaustion! There is a cute little snowcone/coffee place near my work, and on hot days their shrubs are so perfect. They infuse their vinegars weekly, so there is always a new interesting combo to try. I love them.

    (Little Freshie for any KC ‘ers out there http://www.littlefreshie.com)

  21. Laura says...

    I was skeptical when my husband had this pineapple vinegar mixture just chilling in our pantry for a few days. But the cocktail he makes with it (whiskey, lemon juice, pineapple shrub, and IPA) has become my favorite. Love how it mellows out after a few weeks; the flavor changes each time you make a drink with it.

  22. If you left out the alcohol, do shrubs taste like a lazy-lady’s, probiotic-less kambucha ?

    • Shannon says...

      Yes!

    • Kimberly says...

      Mm! They are the best!

  23. I love these, and I’m so glad they’re gaining popularity! I make the vinegar syrup ONLY using refrigeration and time. I love adding herbs from my garden to the different mixes. My favorite so far has been strawberry and basil. Lemon with rosemary was tasty as well, and I bet it would go wonderfully with gin.

  24. Katie says...

    I wonder if you could make an apple shrub with apple cider vinegar instead of white. ACV has numerous health benefits, and I enjoy drinking a glug of it in water first thing in the morning.

    This also makes me sad that fall is coming, and I don’t feel like I’ve truly enjoyed all that summer has to offer, including summer cocktails! Gotta get drinking! ;)

    • Anna says...

      I prefer making my shrubs with apple cider vinegar! Its fruitiness complements the macerated fruit, and as you said – health benefits :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      it adds a tang, almost like lemon; and apparently it’s good for you. here’s a note from wikipedia…

      *****

      The early English version of the shrub arose from the medicinal cordials of the 15th century…

      The American version of the shrub has its origins in 17th century England where vinegar was used as an alternative to citrus juices in the preservation of berries and other fruits for the off-season… By the 19th century, typical American recipes for shrubs used vinegar poured over fruit—traditionally berries—which was left to infuse anywhere from overnight up to several days; afterwards, the fruit would be strained out and the remaining liquid would be mixed with a sweetener such as sugar or honey and then reduced to make a syrup. The sweet-and-sour syrup could be mixed with either water or soda water and served as a soft drink, or it could be used as a mixer in alcoholic cocktails. Shrubs eventually fell out of popularity with the advent of home refrigeration. (But the article goes on to say that they’re back and have become a trend in restaurants in the past few years.)

  25. Awads says...

    i might not shake the club soda up with the shrub. maybe add it at the end? otherwise, i’m envisioning an explosion. perhaps, that is a sign that spirits beat out soda water?

  26. I have never tried one! And I would have never guessed there would be vinegar in it!! It sounds different but I’d love to give it a shot. :)
    http://www.sweetlytattered.com

  27. OK, so here in England a ‘shrub’ is like a tiny bush you plant in the garden!! That mental image aside, sounds quite nice, might try it, thank you! x

  28. MissEm says...

    I love shrubs! I had one about five years ago at PokPok in Portland and was sold (I made us go back two more times just for the drinks – this on a three day vacation).

  29. Delighted to try it! Thank you!

  30. Shrubs are everywhere right now! We just saw a recipe in Sunset magazine, and have noticed them popping up on other blogs too. We can’t wait to try making one.

  31. There’s a coffee shop here in town that makes a coffee drink with soda water and a blackberry shrub, served over ice. It’s divine – a good way to use them in a morning wake up drink!

    (Blueprint Coffee, for any STL residents!)

  32. Amanda says...

    I tried some from a seller called Strongwater at Renegade a few weekends ago, and I’ve been kicking myself ever since for not buying! Their peach & rose was ahhhmazing :)

  33. My husband Michael Dietsch wrote a book on Shrubs – we’d be happy to send you a copy :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh how cool!! going to look it up. thanks, jennifer!

  34. Madeline says...

    Haven’t tried a shrub per se, but I love drinking kombucha cocktails which feels similar: flavored kombuca + gin/vodka + topo chico + lime/lemon

  35. Oooh this sounds so good! I love trying new drinks, and I am weirdly fond of bitterness now. Plus this is such a gorgeous color, it even looks yummy at 9:00 in the morning :) is that bad?
    xx Lane

  36. lindsay says...

    I recently had ginger shrub in a cocktail. It was so delicious and refreshing!

  37. I have not tried a shrub but I’m going to change that asap. I love the idea of vinegar in my cocktail. Will report back.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      it’s delicious and really tangy!

  38. This spring, when the strawberries were prolific, I made a strawberry balsamic shrub that was delicious. I made a few cocktails with it but mostly it was perfect with soda water. I’m excited to try more!