What is Shrub?
A shrub is a vinegar-based syrup infused with fruit, vegetables, herbs, or spices. Back before refrigeration, people stored seasonal crops in vinegar to preserve them; shrub is a byproduct of this pickling process. The leftover tangy vinegar, or shrub, is refreshing, hydrating, and full of electrolytes and nutrients.
Today a shrub is made not so much out of necessity, but more so as an interesting and nuanced ingredient in cuisine and mixology. Shrubs are made with any type of vinegar, and any combination of fresh produce, spices, and sweetener.
Here are a few of our favorite shrub recipes for spring and summer cocktails.
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Shrub
With its sweet and sour combo of rhubarb and strawberry paired with creamy vanilla, this shrub perfectly captures the balanced flavors of the iconic strawberry rhubarb pie.
- 2 cups hulled & chopped strawberries
- 1 cup chopped rhubarb
- 3 cups white sugar
- 1 scraped vanilla bean
- 3 cups rosé vinegar
Preparation: Stir the strawberries, rhubarb, sugar, and vanilla together in a large nonreactive container. Cover and leave alone for a few hours, or until the mixture turns syrupy. Stir in the rosé vinegar until all the sugar is dissolved. Cover and store in the fridge for 5-7 days. Strain & discard solids (or save them for a garnish!).
Use Strawberry Rhubarb Pie shrub in place of Aperol for a non-alcoholic spritz or Paper Planes remix. It’s great with vodka or bourbon, and it makes a perfect topping for desserts and Belgian waffles.
Garden Peppers Spicy Shrub
I originally developed this shrub out of necessity – we grew too many peppers! After making all the salsa and gazpacho I could handle, it was time for some old-school preservation methods. Agave is used for its deep, savory sweetness, and the apple cider vinegar adds a fruity tang.
- 2 cups of chopped garden peppers (this can be any combination of bell peppers, jalapenos, cherry bombs, chilis, Hungarians, and Fresnos. Just make sure you use some that are spicy and some that are sweet.)
- 1 1/2 cups agave nectar
- 2 cups apple cider vinegar
Preparation: Stir all the ingredients together in a large, nonreactive container. Cover and store in the fridge for 5-7 days. Keep the peppers in this one – they’re delicious and great for garnishes!
Use Garden Pepper Shrub in a paloma or margarita – the agave works very well with tequila and mezcal. This is a great shrub to use in salad dressings and marinades. Add it to a virgin Bloody Mary for some zing, or add it to ginger ale for a midday pick-me-up.
Urban Farmer Shrub
This shrub is based on a shrub called Haymaker’s Punch that was a popular beverage for early American farmers. They used apple cider vinegar, but I like to make a more delicate version with funky champagne vinegar.
- 2 sliced lemons, seeds removed
- 1/2 cup sliced ginger
- 2 tbsp. dried lavender
- 2 cups honey
- 2 cups champagne vinegar
Preparation: Stir all the ingredients together in a large, nonreactive container. Cover and store in the fridge for 5-7 days. Strain and discard solids.
The Urban Farmer Shrub is a delicate, herbal version of the old school Haymaker’s Punch. This shrub adds nuance to a Tom Collins or French 75. It’s super refreshing in lemonade or ginger ale.
Keep it local!
Making shrubs is a great way to reduce food waste. “Ugly” fruits and vegetables work great in shrubs, and you can preserve seasonal, locally sourced produce by pickling it. Use whatever ingredients you find at the farmers market this summer to make your own shrubs to last all year!