Offering to pour someone a shrub usually requires an explanation. Clearly the noun is not referring to the leafy bush. But just what is a shrub? Why would you want to drink one?
The answer to the first question has a surprisingly long history. Mixologist Warren Bobrow calls drinking shrubs “the original energy drinks” and dates them back to the 1800s. The combination of vinegar, water, and sweetener gave farmworkers a refreshing boost while in the field. Then farmers discovered they could expand the range of flavors using their harvest and the preserving properties of vinegar and sugar. Add carbonated water, and the first soft drinks were born. But these aren’t our contemporary, corn syrupy sodas: shrubs, aka drinking vinegars, capture the bright flavors of fresh fruits and vegetables at the peak of their season.
Raw shrubs take little time to prepare but need a bit of foresight. The wait for cold processing means you don’t need to heat the shrub and lose some of its flavorful pop, a particular advantage with delicately flavored fruits like citrus and kiwi. They usually need 1–3 days to get to their final form but often taste best when left for at least a week. But shrubs last a long time too—I’m told up to a year, but I’ve never been able to keep one around that long.
This shrub recipe is a concentrate; you’ll want to dilute it to enjoy it. The simplest method is to pour 1/2 ounce of shrub into an 8-ounce or larger glass, top it with sparkling water or seltzer, and then add more shrub until you get a balance you like. Or upgrade your bar by using the shrub as the base for a cocktail.
Learn to make Raw-Fruit Shrub and Basic Shrub Cocktail