14. September 2016 · Categories: Recipes


By Jenny McCoy
—Chef Instructor, School of Pastry & Baking Arts

Drinking vinegars, also known as shrubs, have become increasingly popular. Restaurants like Pok Pok NY in Brooklyn are now bottling drinking vinegars and selling them in grocery stores across they country. Even though not everyone knows about shrubs, drinking vinegar for health purposes has been done for a very long time.

Long ago, the Romans and Babylonians were mixing vinegar with water. The word “shrub” is derived from the Arabic word “sharbah,” which translates as “drink.” Even sailors from the 16th-18th centuries drank shrubs to prevent scurvy! Today, they are infused with every flavor one can imagine and lauded for their health benefits, some even claiming weight loss.

spoon-university

Shrub cocktail from the Spoon University event at ICE (credit: Katherine Baker)

Here’s the skinny

Shrubs are made with a combination of fruit, sugar and acid. More traditionally, they are made with equal parts fruit, sugar and vinegar. My preferred ratio is two parts fruit, one part sugar and one part vinegar—I tend to like my shrubs on the fruitier side, so I double the fruit. To make something so simple just slightly more complex, shrubs can be prepared in two ways—hot and cold—and they have infinite flavor combinations.

As for their health benefits, I can’t imagine anything made of four parts, one of which is sugar, to be very healthy. However, drinking vinegar itself has its merits: vinegar helps keep blood sugar levels in check by preventing your body from fully digesting starch. In doing so, your body will have a lower glycemic response to the starch you eat, which may decrease your chances of developing heart disease and diabetes. So, the next time you plan to eat a ton of bread, drink some vinegar first. Drinking vinegar is also considered to be healthful for an assortment of other reasons. But since this isn’t a post about diet (and instead includes recipes for alcoholic drinks), we’ll skip that talk for now.

To make a shrub—the cold way

This method will create a shrub that tastes fresh, light and slightly more acidic because the mixture will not be cooked.

Combine two parts chopped fruit and one part sugar in a large airtight container. Refrigerate the mixture for two days, allowing the fruit to macerate and the juices to release from the fruit. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing as much liquid from the fruit as possible. Transfer the mixture to a large airtight container and add the vinegar. Refrigerate the mixture for one week before using.

To make a shrub—the hot way

This method is quicker, but will deliver a less fruity flavor and be a bit mellower because the mixture will be cooked.

Simply combine all of the ingredients—two parts chopped fruit, one part sugar and one part vinegar—in a large pot and bring to a boil. Let simmer for three minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Strain and refrigerate until cold. It can be used immediately.

Flavoring a shrub

When making shrubs, you can use any fruit you’d like. Certain fruits may work better with either the hot or cold method. If you choose a fruit that doesn’t cook well, such as watermelon, consider the cold method. If you choose a fruit that tastes great raw or cooked, such as a pineapple, you can use either method. But if you choose a fruit with a very delicate flavor, such as a pear, consider the hot method to amplify its flavor.

I also love to infuse other flavors into my shrubs. Vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns or any other flavor that infuses easily into a liquid are a great option. Herbs, freshly grated ginger or turmeric root are also knockout alternatives. You should also consider the vinegar you use: distilled, for example, tends to be too acidic. Instead, use cider or rice vinegar for a mellow flavor. And don’t think you need to stick with just those options. White or red wine vinegar, champagne vinegar, even a bit of balsamic vinegar make for special shrub combinations. Lastly, you can use any variation of sugar you prefer—give demerara sugar or raw honey a try.

Flavor recommendations

Hot method

  • Quince + star anise + brown sugar + cider vinegar
  • Bing cherries + vanilla bean + dark brown sugar + cider vinegar

Cold method

  • Strawberries + basil + turbinado sugar + champagne vinegar
  • Grapefruit + fresh bay leaf + granulated sugar + honey + rice wine vinegar

You’ve prepared your shrub…what now?

Once you’ve prepared your shrub, you can serve it as a nonalcoholic spritzer—combine equal parts shrub and seltzer, and add more seltzer or shrub to taste. Or, better yet, you can use the shrub as the base for a cocktail. A good rule of thumb is two ounces of shrub, two ounces of your choice of alcohol and two ounces of seltzer. From there you can doctor your cocktail to taste. Don’t forget to garnish either version with some fresh herbs or slices of fresh fruit.

Here is a peach shrub recipe I recently concocted for a mixology demo performed at ICE for Spoon University. For the demo, I lined my tabletop with over a dozen varieties of fresh herbs from our hydroponic garden at ICE and encouraged guests to concoct their own cocktails by choosing herbs to mix into the drink they wanted to try!

catskill-provisions

(credit: Caitlin Gunther)

Peach Shrub with Catskills Provisions Honey Whiskey

Servings: makes about four cups shrub (enough for 12 or so servings)

For the shrub

Ingredients:

3 large ripe peaches, chopped
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup honey
1 cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup rice wine vinegar
½ teaspoon salt

Instructions:

  • In a large pot, combine all of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook for about three minutes.
  • Remove mixture from heat and let stand until cooled to room temperature. Pass mixture through a fine-mesh strainer and chill until cold.

 

For the cocktail

Ingredients:

2 ounces peach shrub
2 ounces Catskills Provisions Honey Whiskey (or any other brand you prefer—but if using a non-honeyed whiskey, you may want to add a teaspoon of honey or simple syrup)
2 ounces seltzer
Lemon wedges
Fresh herbs, such as lavender, thyme, rosemary or basil

Instructions:

  • In a glass filled with ice, combine the shrub and whiskey and stir. Top with the seltzer.
  • Garnish with a wedge of lemon and fresh herbs.

 

Boozy Blueberry Basil Shrub

Servings: makes about four cups shrub (enough for 12 or so servings)

For the shrub

Ingredients:

3 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
1 ½ cups apple cider vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
1 bunch basil, leaves torn or roughly chopped

Preparation:

  • In a large pot, combine all of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook for about three minutes.
  • Remove the mixture from heat, add the torn basil leaves and let stand until cooled to room temperature. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer and chill until cold.

 

For the cocktail

Ingredients:

2 ounces blueberry shrub
2 ounces gin, Hendrick’s recommended
2 ounces seltzer
Lime wedges
Fresh basil sprigs

Preparation:

  • In a glass filled with ice, combine the shrub and gin and stir. Top with the seltzer.
  • Garnish with a lime wedge and a sprig of fresh basil.

Want to study pastry arts with Chef Jenny? Click here to get more info about ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.

2 Comments

  1. This is a great post. Can the shrubs be stored at room temperature? Do you have to put it through a boiling water canner to do that?
    Thanks

  2. If it’s made with 1/3 fruit, 1/3 vinegar, and 1/3 sugar, a shrub’s acid level will be high enough to store at room temp. However, it is best to properly can the shrub mixture to be safe. Otherwise, you can store the shrub in the refrigerator for quite a long time.

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