Here in Cincinnati, shrubs are a *thing*; there are two outfits that I know of (Queen City Shrub and Chimera Shrubs) that are making these old-fashioned-but-new tonics. What’s a shrub, you ask? It’s an infusion of fruit or spice with sugar in vinegar. A vinegar shrub makes a lovely mocktail with soda water, and an even better cocktail with your favorite spirit. Shrubs have been showing up on bar menus all over town in the past couple of years.
We recently bought a bottle of amazing Ras al Hanout Haymaker Shrub from Queen City Shrub—its bold Moroccan spice makes the perfect companion to bourbon. And while the pro shrub-makers concoct all kinds of interesting flavor combinations, shrubs are super easy to make at home.
And now’s the time to do it, when spring and summer fruit is at its peak.
I turned part of a batch of recently picked strawberries into a simple homemade strawberry shrub this week, and it will flavor our summer cocktails all season long. You can substitute rhubarb, peaches, raspberries, nectarines or any other seasonal fruit for the berries in the recipe below. And I’ve included a recipe for the strawberry shrub and gin cocktail Rob dubbed Another Shrubbery. Cheers!
BASIC Fruit SHRUB RECIPE
makes about 2 1/2 cups
2 cups ripe fresh fruit, washed, hulled, and cut into chunks (see Note)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup vinegar (I used 1/2 cup red wine vinegar and 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar)
1 large sprig thyme, mint or basil (optional)
Wash a quart Mason jar and lid, then sterilize them by pouring boiling water over them; let them sit for 10 minutes, then empty and cool.
Add the fruit and sugar, and use a wooden spoon to mash the fruit to create a chunky mixture. Top the jar with the lid and let it sit on the counter overnight. After 24 hours, add the vinegar and herbs, if using. Cover and gently shake the jar until the sugar has dissolved. Stash the jar in the refrigerator for 1 week. Strain the mixture through a sieve, pressing on the solids with a wooden spoon to extract all the liquid and flavor. If you'd like a clear shrub, strain it again through a coffee filter (this will take several hours). Wash and re-sterilize your jar and lid; transfer the shrub to the jar and refrigerate up to 6 months.
ANOTHER SHRUBBERY COCKTAIL
makes 1 drink
2 ounces gin
1 ounce St. Germain elderflower liqueur
1 ounce strawberry shrub
3 dashes orange bitters
In a highball glass with ice, stir together the ingredients. Top with club soda, and add a mint or basil sprig for garnish, if desired.