THE DRINK NATION IS A FREE RESOURCE FOR FINDING EVERYTHING AWESOME ABOUT DRINKING IN YOUR LOCATION
The Drink Nation Home Bar Project Cover

Mind the Shrubs: A Colonial Cocktail Ingredient Is Back in Vogue

Drink your vinegar
by Felicia D'Ambrosio on Jun 12, 2012 in Liquor
Mind the Shrubs: A Colonial Cocktail Ingredient Is Back in Vogue

With a name derived from the Arabic word sharab — “to drink” — the acidulated concoction of fruit juice and sugar known in Colonial America as a shrub fell out of favor as a go-to cold drink around the same time industrially produced foods began their rise to prominence.

The advent of home refrigeration dealt the final blow to the shrub, whose syrupy base was the primary method of preserving a fruit harvest long after it had been picked. Traditionally, home shrub makers would combine fruit or juice with sugar and vinegar, allowing the mixture to steep over several days or weeks before use. The sugar acts as a preservative of the concentrated syrup, which would be mixed with cool water to create a refreshingly tart warm-weather beverage.

“I think the historical significance is really cool,” says Phoebe Esmon, a Philadelphia bartender and principal of nascent consulting venture Spirit Animal Beverage Solutions. “There are so many kinds of vinegar, so many different flavors you can put into it,” she says, “and it really opens up the possibilities of adding flavor and acid to a cocktail without using citrus.”

Since acid stimulates the salivary glands, the sweet-tart liquid both quenches thirst while piquing the appetite, making it ideal for inclusion in apertif-style cocktails. Brandy or rum was added to shrubs in the nineteenth century; today, Esmon suggests starting with gin or whiskey as a complimentary base.

Unlike a cocktail brightened with citrus juice, which tradition deems should be stirred, shrub drinks can be shaken; they remain clear and won’t turn a cocktail cloudy, the way citrus will.

You can make your own shrub at home by macerating one part fresh, stemmed fruit — halved or quartered if large — with one part granulated sugar in a bowl in the fridge overnight. The sugar will extract the liquid from the fruit. Strain out the solids and mix your fruit syrup with one part vinegar — champagne and apple cider both make interesting pairings — whisk to combine, and voila, a historically accurate cocktail enhancer with a modern feel. 

Looking for a specific recipe to try your hand at shrub-making? Check out this recipe Phoebe contributed to Imbibe Magazine:

Strawberry Shrub Instructions:

Hull and slice 1 pint of strawberries. Place them in a pot with 1 quart of apple cider vinegar. Bring to a boil, then remove the pot from the heat and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. Strain out the fruit, then add 1 cup of simple syrup to the remaining liquid.

Then make it into a Strawberry Shrub Collins:

1 1/2 gin (or another spirit)
3/4 oz. simple syrup (1:1)
3/4 oz. strawberry shrub
Club soda
Ice cubes
Tools: barspoon
Glass: Collins
Garnish: fresh strawberry and/or basil or mint

Combine gin, simple syrup and strawberry shrub in an ice-filled Collins glass, stirring until chilled. Top with club soda, then garnish.

Recipe via Imbibe Magazine

Photo via Flickr user Chip and Andy

Recent Articles

Feedback

How are we doing? Tell us what you like or don't like and how we can improve. We would love to hear your thoughts!

*Name:
*E-mail:
*Suggestions:
 
Behind the Bar: Jason Wise, Director of the SOMM Documentary Film Series

Behind the Bar: Jason Wise, Director of the SOMM Documentary Film Series

For this installment of Behind the Bar, we spoke to Jason Wise, documentary filmmaker and director of the new ...read more ›

by The Drink Nation Oct 31, 2018
Beam Suntory Has Launched a Japanese Vodka & Gin

Beam Suntory Has Launched a Japanese Vodka & Gin

Beam Suntory, one of the largest producers of both American and Japanese whiskeys in the world, has introduced two new clear spirits to its lineup: Ha...read more ›

by The Drink Nation Oct 29, 2018
You Can Now Minor in Bourbon at This Kentucky University

You Can Now Minor in Bourbon at This Kentucky University

Thanks to the booming bourbon tourism industry in Kentucky, the state's Midway University now offers a minor in Bourbon Studies as part of their under...read more ›

by The Drink Nation Oct 29, 2018
SPONSORED
Drink Nation Store Rectangle
You Can Make Your Own Whiskey at This Virginia Beach Hotel

You Can Make Your Own Whiskey at This Virginia Beach Hotel

If you've always wanted to make your own whiskey, you're in luck - a hotel in Virginia Beach is letting guests make their own barrels of whiskey....read more ›

by The Drink Nation Oct 15, 2018
Bono Has Purchased a Stake in a New Irish Whiskey Distillery

Bono Has Purchased a Stake in a New Irish Whiskey Distillery

Lots of celebrities have been partnering with distilleries lately, and now, U2's Bono is the latest star to form a partnership with a liquor company....read more ›

by The Drink Nation Oct 15, 2018
Johnnie Walker & Game of Thrones Are Releasing an Entirely New Line of Scotch Whisky

Johnnie Walker & Game of Thrones Are Releasing an Entirely New Line of Scotch Whisky

Game of Thrones & Diageo are already teaming up for the impending release of their Johnnie Walker White Walker...read more ›

by The Drink Nation Oct 2, 2018
Ryan Reynolds & Richard Branson are Launching a Gin Partnership

Ryan Reynolds & Richard Branson are Launching a Gin Partnership

Sir Richard Branson (owner of Virgin Atlantic) and Ryan Reynolds (owner of Aviation Gin) are teaming up for an exclusive partnership....read more ›

by The Drink Nation Oct 2, 2018
10 Barrel Brewing Creates Beer to Celebrate America's Last Blockbuster Store

10 Barrel Brewing Creates Beer to Celebrate America's Last Blockbuster Store

Bend, Oregon's 10 Barrel Brewing created "The Last Blockbuster," a beer to celebrate the last Blockbuster Vide...read more ›

by Jessie Donofrio Sep 12, 2018
You Can Bathe in Beer at this Japanese Resort

You Can Bathe in Beer at this Japanese Resort

A resort in Japan is combining a natural hot spring with beer to create a one of a kind "beer bath."...read more ›

by The Drink Nation Sep 5, 2018
Brewdog Opens Craft Beer Hotel Inside Brewery With Beer on Tap in Rooms in Ohio

Brewdog Opens Craft Beer Hotel Inside Brewery With Beer on Tap in Rooms in Ohio

Columbus is now home to a beautiful new beer hotel, with the opening of BrewDog's DogHouse Hotel in Ohio. ...read more ›

by Jessie Donofrio Sep 4, 2018
SPONSORED
View all Articles

Sign up to get weekly drinking news, bar reviews, events and more sent directly to your inbox!

Close