A “shrub” is not just the bush you put up for Hanukkah because you want something to decorate. It’s also a complex drink syrup that’s been—I love this word—acidulated. At its most basic it’s half-sweet, half-acidic, and a completely surprising and delicious base for a cocktail or mixed with your favorite bubbly water.
You might remember tasting a sour soda? That’s the savory, refreshing flavor you’re going for.
The shrub —a popular drink in olden days—has been making a comeback at trendy restaurants that experiment with mixing not only sweet with sour but also throwing in heat (think habanero or jalapeno) for fun. The fruits and other ingredients are either macerated with sugar or steeped over low heat to make the syrup. After straining, an equal amount of vinegar or acidic juice (lemon, lime) is added. That potent mixture, in turn, is combined with seltzer, mineral water, gin, bourbon, or rum.
So, in short, it’s a flexible concept, and a great way to use fruit and even veggies past their prime. In the summer I like to use “seconds” fruit from the farmers’ market, or produce I didn’t eat before it got overripe. In one case I used old strawberries and dried-out rhubarb with red-wine vinegar. Another summertime experiment used MORE of that rhubarb (it just wouldn’t go away) with smooshed peaches and apple cider vinegar. My friends who don’t drink alcohol loved it mixed half-and-half with sparkling water . . . once they got over the vinegary smell.
Posted by: Donna Moxley