You may have seen this ingredient popping up on cocktail menus at many bars and restaurants these days and wondered, “What is a Shrub?” Or maybe not. Either way, here’s a bit of the what, when, why and how of this newly rediscovered classic.
Traditionally, in Colonial America, shrubs were used as a means to preserve seasonal fruit in order to utilize and enjoy their flavors during leaner times. Typically vinegar would be poured over fresh berries and set out for a few days to absorb the flavor. After the solids were taken out, a sweetener was added. You could then mix it with either water to make “drinking vinegar,” or liquor, typically brandy or rum, to make an early form of a cocktail. Spices and herbs were often added for more complexity.
With the modern luxury of refrigeration, these types of soft drinks fell out of favor. That is, until the craft cocktail mantra of “All that was old is new again” began sweeping the nation.
With as many combinations as there are of fruits, sweeteners, spices and vinegars, the possibilities are endless. Here is an easy favorite of my creation, and how to make a great drink with it. Cheers!
Strawberry Basil Shrub
In a large mason jar, muddle:
1 pound of Strawberries (stems removed)
1 oz. Fresh Basil
2 cups Sugar
To that add:
3/8 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 cup + 2 tsp. Apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
Stir and cap tightly. Let stand for 8-12 hrs. Stir again and then refrigerate for 5-7 days. Strain out all solids and store in refrigerator for up to 6 months (trust me, you’ll finish it long before then)
2 oz Old Tom Gin (a tad sweeter than London Dry)
1 oz Strawberry/Basil Shrub
.25 oz Fresh(!) lime juice
1 Healthy Dash Angostura Orange Bitters
Shake hard with plenty of ice for 15 seconds and double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with one or all: lime wheel, basil leaf, sliced strawberry.