The word shrub calls to mind a short, stemmy, woody plant, similar to a bush but maybe even a bit bushier. It also refers to a delicious vinegar-based syrup that makes any drink – alcoholic or not – more refreshing. That’s the shrub I am talking about. Popular in colonial times, this old-fashioned drink is enjoying a well-earned revival in the finest establishments- and now you can create sweet and savory cocktails and sophisticated sodas at home.
I remember the first time I had a shrub. In 2008… bartenders around the country were just beginning to rediscover the the shrub, and that day I tasted a cocktail by a Chicago bartender named Bridget Albert. Her drink featured Cachaça, a Brazilian liquor made from sugarcane juice that is somewhat similar to rum. She also used raspberry shrub, lime juice, and ginger ale. The drink was balanced and refreshing, with no single ingredient taking over. I could taste the Cachaça, the fruit, and the tang of vinegar, but they were harmonious. And since I had just walked into the hotel from a blistering New Orleans summer day, the drink was also the most refreshing thing I had tasted all day. I kept going back for more.
It turns out that vinegar is incredibly good at quenching your thirst when it is hot out. Research shows that sour-tasting beverages – such as vinegar and lemonade – are better at stimulating salivation than are other drinks. A wet mouth helps you feel hydrated even after you’re done drinking… it [also] stimulates the appetite… shrubs are a perfect cocktail to prepare for a night of fine dining.
When I got home, I had to recreate the drink because I knew my wife would love it. …I was right, my wife loved it, and we both fell in love with shrubs… from that point on, I made them frequently. We drank them in cocktails, we drank them with vermouth or sherry, and we drank them without alcohol, just topped with soda or seltzer.
Find a recipe Cherry-Mint Shrub recipe HERE, and pick up an in-store copy of DRINKS Magazine for great shrub recipes, including:
- Lemon-Lime Shrub to make a Lemon-Lime Rickey or Gimlet
- Benjamin Franklin’s Shrub made with orange.
Find pre-made Shrubs from Shrub & Co. with flavors like: blood orange, grapefruit, and peach in the mix aisle and add to your cocktail!