Shrubs: A Refreshing Summer Drink

On a recent lunch-time pizza outing, I was introduced to a non-alcoholic drink I’d never heard of before: a shrub. The drink served at our table was a mixture of vinegar (stay with me, here), strawberry & rhubarb, sugar, and carbonated water. While a drink with a vinegar base might sound less than appealing, it was really very good! Doing a little research, I discovered that — as the the New York Times explained last year — “[t]he modern American shrub … has roots in England, when vinegar was used to preserve fruit, [and subsequently] it became the fashion to pour off the vinegar, mix it with a sweetener and use the syrup as a base for a drink.”

The shrub is an uncomplicated drink, and you can experiment with whatever ingredients you like:

Step 1: Mix fruit and sugar in a glass or other nonplastic bowl, breaking apart or mashing the fruit to bring out its juices. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Step 2: Stir the mixture well, add vinegar and chill. The shrub can be strained and used at this point, but it will take on more of the characteristics of the fruit if it sits for a few days. When ready to use, stir well to make sure sugar is dissolved, then strain using a fine sieve, pressing the solids to get all of the juice.

Step 3: Pour the mixture into a clean Mason jar or funnel into a glass bottle with a stopper or cork.

Step 4: To prepare a drink, add 1 part shrub to 2 or 3 parts seltzer or ginger beer and serve over ice.

This handful of recipes from the NYT “Cooking” section is a good place to start.

Are you a fan of the shrub? What are your favorite flavor combinations? Alternately, what are your favorite summer drinks? Please share in the comments.

[CC-licensed Flickr photo by Erin Kohlenberg]

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