What’s a shrub? In the drinks world, it's nothing to do with bushes. It's an old fashioned mixer that's burst back onto the cocktail scene, with bartenders rediscovering the lots art of shrub-making.
Shrub & Co put it perfectly: “Shrubs are an intriguing blend of fruit, sugar, and vinegar created during the Colonial Era to preserve fruit long after harvest. Recipes and methods for making shrubs vary, but the result is always a delicious liquid that captures the essence of fresh fruit – to be enjoyed in any season. Peaches with bourbon in December? Absolutely.” Or as the Huffington Post explained, “a shrub is a fancy name for a ‘drinking vinegar.’”
The Sherryzard, Hawksmoor Spitalfields
Essentially, shrubs are a way of infusing and preserving flavours for drinks. But – unlike fat washing – the current trend in shrubs is a rediscovery of a traditional method rather than a new invention. You’ll find them on the coolest cocktail menus all over the UK and US, and one of London’s trendiest new cocktail bars is named after them: The Shrub & Shutter in Brixton.
At the most basic, shrubs can be added to water or soda as a kind of tart, light squash. Rawduck in Hackney serves apple drinking vinegar with heather honey as a morning tonic.
In terms of cocktails, Hawksmoor in Spitalfields mixes an orange and peach shrub with sherry, soda and orange bitters to create the Sherryzard. The Shrub & Shutter’s cocktail menu features fruit shrubs (pomegranate, apricot), cucumber shrub, even a wasabi and green tea shrub.
Shrub cocktails and awesome nibbles at the Shrub & Shutter, Brixton
Back in the day, shrubs were made by fermenting fruit, but the method below – adding vinegar to sweetened fruit - is easier and quicker. You can make it with any fruit you want, add any herbs or spices you want, and mix it with whatever type of spirit or soft drink you want. There are no rules.
Makes just under a litre
500g fruit (this method works best with soft fruits and very ripe fruit.)
500g sugar, dependent on sweetness of the fruit
600ml vinegar (white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, sherry vinegar etc)
Other optional flavourings, like herbs and spices
1. Clean, pit, peel and roughly chop the fruit.
2. Pile in a large bowl, add the sugar, and toss together.
3. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and leave at room temperature for at least a couple hours, preferably overnight. Give the mixture a stir once in awhile.
4. Line a colander or large sieve with muslin and set it over another bowl.
5. Strain all the fruit and juices through the muslin, pressing on the fruit solids with a ladle to extract as much juice as possible.
6. Mix the strained juice with the vinegar in stages, tasting your shrub as you go - it should be quite tart, but not unpleasantly sour. Stir in more sugar or vinegar to get to a balance you like.
7. Add any additional flavourings, pour the shrub into clean bottles or jars and seal. They’ll keep in the fridge indefinitely.