Cocktail Level-Up with Shrubs!

You've likely been to a cocktail bar and seen one of the ingredients in your drinks that has some fairly fancy mixture of fruits and herbs and descriptors that ends with the word "shrub." It's not the hedge outside your house, it's a sweetened, vinegar-based additive to any drink that provides tartness, some body, and the obvious sugar to a drink. It creates a more interesting depth of flavor as a base to the liquor you're using to give your drink its oomph. And it's great that you can get this at a bar, but in the world of self-isolation and social distancing that keeps us from our favorite watering holes, how do you make one at home? We're gonna' tell you. 

The word “shrub” comes from the Arabic word sharbah, which means “a drink.” The vinegar adds a brightness to your cocktail and makes it more interesting than the more one-dimensional simple syrup we learned you up on last time we talked about cocktails. The base ingredients are herbs and/or spice, vinegar, and fruit. 

You can make pretty much any variation on the following base recipe to suit the cocktail you want to make, but we'll provide both the shrub instructions/recipe, and a cocktail recipe to get your creative juices flowing. 

  • First thing's first, what kind of vinegar should you use? We like apple cider vinegar for a few reasons; it's already fruit based, usually has some flavor besides the acetic bite of distilled white vinegar, and is a bit less intense than red wine vinegars.
  • Next, what kind of fruits and herbs should you use? Be creative, but think about what works well together. Berries and cinnamon. Orange and clove. Rosemary and strawberries. Lemons and mint. It's completely up to your imagination, but you want to think about what will mix well with the liquor or other ingredients in the cocktails you're trying to create. 


So here's a basic recipe for a shrub, and we'll get into a cocktail that could fit with it next. We're using weight instead of volume measurements here because accuracy and repeatability, so you will need a scale, but you can always wing it and see how it turns out. 

  • 50 grams white sugar
  • 65 grams honey
  • 100 grams fruit of your choice (we tend to macerate and purée before we add it to the mixture.)
  1. Add the dried herbs and apple cider vinegar to an airtight container and leave in a cool, dark place overnight to infuse.
  2. The next day, empty the liquid into a saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Bring the liquid to a boil. Boil for about 15 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced by half. Remove the pan from the heat and strain through a fine-mesh strainer into another container.
  3. Add the sugar and honey, and stir until dissolved. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

The above will make about 2 cups. 


Strawberry Mint cocktail

 For this one, we're using a strawberry/mint shrub and some whisky. 

  • Fill a highball glass with crushed ice
  • Add 1.5 oz. of your favorite Bourbon (we're not snobby about Bourbon, so you do you)
  • Add 3 oz. of a strawberry mint shrub
  • Garnish with fresh mint leaves and/or strawberry


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