What is Shrub?

A shrub is a vinegar-based syrup infusion with fruit, vegetables, herbs, or spices. In colonial America, vinegar was used to preserve seasonal crops, and the refreshing leftover shrub was drunk for its electrolytes and nutrients.

Today we don’t need to preserve our crops in vinegar, but shrubs are still used as unique and interesting ingredients by chefs and mixologists across the globe. Here you’ll find shrub recipes for fall and winter, along with ideas on how to incorporate them into mixed drinks.

Harvest Shrub

Fall is the traditional time to start shrubs – the last harvest of the season has to be preserved for winter somehow. It’s also a great time to incorporate those familiar spices we all associate with fall; nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, and cardamom are delicious in shrubs with apples, pumpkins, or peaches.

Blueberries are my favorite fall fruit. I’m from the midwest, where blueberries are collected by the bucket as summer ends and days start getting shorter. I freeze fresh blueberries for smoothies all winter, but this blueberry shrub is the best way have fresh blueberry flavor on hand for cocktails year-round.

Blueberry Shrub cocktail

Blueberry Shrub Cocktail

Photo by by Wesual Click

Blueberry Bucket Shrub

Fill up a large mason jar or plastic container with the following ingredients:

  • 1 cup Fresh Blueberries
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • 3 cinnamon Sticks
  • 1 cup White Balsamic Vinegar

Preparation: Cover and store in a dark, cool place for at least 1 week. Strain out and discard the solids.

This cinnamon and white balsamic vinegar in this shrub make it deep and flavorful. It pairs well with brandy or gin, especially with a splash of lime. Splash it into mineral water or hot tea for added intrigue and depth.

Shrub Through Winter

Gardens are bare and farmers markets are closed in the wintertime, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still find some good produce! Apples and beets are harvested almost year-round. Closer to the equator, citrus is in season during the winter. Even after shipping, lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruit have great flavor through the colder months.

This beet shrub is an all-time favorite of mine because I’m crazy about beets! We make it by the gallon and drink it through winter and spring at my house. The beets make the shrub bright purple, and their earthiness is balanced out by the apples and orange peel.

winter beets by natalia-fogarty

Winter Beets

Photo by Natalia Fogarty

Beet Shrub

Fill up a large mason jar or plastic container with the following ingredients:

  • 2 cups Beets
  • 1 cup Apples (Skin on, core removed)
  • 1 Orange Peel
  • 3 cups Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 3 cups Brown Sugar

Preparation: Cover and store in a dark, cool place for at least 2 weeks. Strain out and discard the solids.

The best way to drink this shrub is with some tequila or smokey mezcal. I like to add some ginger liquor and fresh lime, too. For a nonalcoholic drink, try mixing it with orange juice and ginger ale, or keep it simple and splash it in sparkling water with a twist of lime.

Endless Possibilities

These recipes are intended to be a jumping off point for your imagination when it comes to making shrub. You can use any kind of vinegar you like. You can add spices, herbs, and citrus to develop the flavor profile. I like to use blue agave or maple syrup instead of sugar in some recipes or leave the sugar out altogether to create a savory shrub.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and switch up ingredients. One of the best parts about making shrub is the inevitable variation you get with each batch, so have fun with it!