Originating as a means of preserving berries and other fruit in the off-season, a shrub is a mixture of fruit and vinegar. As shrubs developed, the liquid began to be strained off and served as a drink, either on its own or as a mixer in a cocktail.
Why haven’t I heard of shrubs? Shrubs fell out of favour with the spread home refrigeration, and have been off the radar for nearly a century, however, more and more trendy venus are including them other drinks list and they are due for a comeback.
The acidity of shrubs makes them a useful ingredient for those who don’t like overly-sweet drinks. The key to an amazing shrub though, is balance. You want the sweet fruit notes to be perfectly balanced by the tart vinegar. You will want a fruit that has loads to flavour: berries or melon and not a lot of natural acid, otherwise it will be just too lip-puckering.
A shrub is intensely refreshing and is an ideal drink to sip during the warm summer months.
I have made various shrubs before, but this ginger and rosemary shrub is delightful.
Shrubs can be made either by boiling the fruit and sugar first and then adding the vinegar, or just by macerating the fruit and sugar and placing in the fridge before adding the vinegar. I have always used the second method.
- 3 piece of thumb sized ginger, peeled
- 3 sprigs rosemary
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar, more if needed
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- Chop the ginger into small chunks and place in a plastic tupperware container.
- Tear the rosemary of the stem and add it to the ginger.
- Cover the ginger and rosemary in sugar so that it is fully coated.
- Place lid on container and refrigerate.
- After a day or so, there should be a liquid that has seeped out of the vegetation.
- Strain this liquid off and add the vinegar.
- Check the balance of flavours. You may need to add more sugar or vinegar depending on your tastes. It should be tart but still drinkable.
- Bottle and keep refrigerated.
You can add shrubs to any kind of cocktail. I had made some homemade spiced vodka (simply add your favourite whole spices to vodka and let infuse for a day) which worked extremely well with the warming ginger and aromatic rosemary.
Play around with different fruit and liquor combinations.
Shrubs are also a sophisticated alternative in the soft drink arena. If you have a guest who doesn’t drink, they will appreciate the effort you have gone to if you offer them a homemade shrub mixed with something like ginger beer or sparkling water. A cracking combination is strawberry and basil shrub with ginger beer.