Here’s an easy step by step into making a fruit shrub, sometimes called a “drinking vinegar”. Today I’m using rhubarb, but any fruit will work here- berries, stone fruit, even tropical fruit. When added to sparkling water or cocktails, a shrub add refreshing flavor while stimulating the appetite, quenching the thirst and energizing the body.
What is a shrub?
A “shrub” is basically an old way of preserving. It’s typically a fruit- infused syrup, made with fresh ingredients, then fortified with vinegar (or alcohol)– and then aged, which develops its flavor and complexity. You can often find these now in specialty stores, called drinking vinegars and they are most commonly used in craft cocktails, or mocktails.
Before we had refrigeration, many methods were used to preserve nature’s bounty, saving them for the leaner months. Most of us are familiar with canning, curing, smoking, dehydrating, and fermenting, just to name a few- but in the last couple years, there has been a huge revival of the “shrub”, a way of preserving the essence and flavor of fresh produce – one that’s easy and fun to do at home, requiring no special equipment.
The idea is simple really -it’s basically creating a syrup, by macerating fruit (or vegetables) with sugar, and then fortifying it with vinegar ( or alcohol) , which not only helps preserve, but continues to work with the sugars, and over time, creates complexity while mellowing and melding into a wonderful concoction.
For mixologists, shrubs have opened up a whole new world of flavor, adding dimension and complexity to cocktails, because the combinations are truly endless. For example, infuse strawberries or blackberries with mint, or star anise with pineapple, or peaches with basil. Shrubs can also be savory, like a tomato shrub infused with chilies and cilantro, or cucumber infused with fresh ginger, or even something as ordinary as celery infused with caraway seeds. Using different kinds of vinegar, and types of alcohols broaden the possibilities even further.
So this very basic recipe is just a starting place. Play around with what you have growing in abundance in your gardens and see what you can come up with. Have fun!
Cut the rhubarb into very small pieces. Toss with sugar. Cover with plastic wrap.
Put in your fridge. Stir once every day, for 4- 5 days.
Eventually, you will have a syrup.
Strain, pressing the solids.
Add vinegar, which will not only preserve but brighten and help the flavor develop further.
Pour into a jar and keep in the fridge.
For a quick pick me up, spoon a tablespoon, or more to taste, into cold sparkling water, or ice water.