Shrubs

  • Christy Grosz

If ever a drink were ripe for revival, it is the oddly named shrub. As mixologists become increasingly bold with their flavor combinations, this drink’s bright fruit-and-vinegar syrup will pique the palate of any intrepid tippler.

As versatile as it is flavorful, shrub syrup was in every colonist’s pantry because the vinegar would preserve the fruit throughout the year without refrigeration. The syrup could be added to cold water for instant refreshment or, more commonly, mixed with some kind of liquor, usually rum.

"It was quite popular in the beginning of the 18th century," Lafranconi says. "Ground almonds and currant juice were common flavoring ingredients as well."

Making a shrub syrup at home is more time-consuming than it is difficult. Most recipes call for adding vinegar to fruit, allowing the mixture to macerate for several days, boiling, then straining. However, the 1948 edition of renowned bartender Patrick Gavin Duffy’s Official Mixer’s Manual has an even easier rum shrub recipe: "Put 3 pints of Orange Juice and 1 pound of Loaf Sugar to 1 gallon of Rum. Put all into a cask and leave it for 6 weeks, when it will be ready for use."

The shrub’s homespun nature makes it perfect for experimentation. "There are no more superfruits out there; there are no more bizarre unique ingredients. All we can do is to try new food in drinks," Nepove says.

RASPBERRY SHRUB 
By Jerry Thomas, circa 1862
1 qt. red wine vinegar
3 qt. raspberries
Sugar
Brandy

Combine vinegar and raspberries and let stand for a day. Strain mixture and add a pound of sugar for each pint; boil for about a half hour, skimming clear. Let cool, then add two ounces of brandy for each pint of the shrub. Garnish with five floating raspberries and a sprig of mint, sprinkled with powdered sugar.
(Note: Can be made with gin, tequila, or calvados in place of brandy.) 

WINTERTIDE
By Francesco Lafranconi
11/2 oz. aged rum
1/2 oz. Averna bitters
1/2 oz. Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
2 dashes bitters
1 oz. black fig–raisin shrub mix*

Stir all ingredients together in an old-fashioned glass and serve over ice. Garnish with a star-anise pod, skewered figs and raisins, and a pinch of orange-peel sea salt.**

*Black Fig–Raisin Shrub Mix
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 pint black figs
1/2 pint raisins
11/2 cup superfine sugar
1/2 cup water

Combine vinegar, figs, and raisins in a glass jar; allow mixture to macerate for about three days. Mix sugar and water in a saucepan, then strain vinegar infusion and add. Bring to a boil then cool completely. Refrigerate in an airtight glass container.
**To make orange-peel sea salt, combine 1 cup of fleur de sel with 3 ounces of dried, minced orange peel. Store at room temperature in an airtight glass container.

JACKFROST SHRUB
By Jason Girard
11/2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. triple sec (70 to 80 proof)
1/8 oz. St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
1 oz. mint shrub mix*

Stir all ingredients together and serve over 2 ice cubes in a goblet or old-fashioned glass. Garnish with fresh mint dusted with powdered sugar and chocolate shavings.

*Mint Shrub Mix
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups fresh mint leaves
2 oz. star-anise pods
1 oz. cracked cacao beans
11/2 cups superfine sugar
1/2 cup water

Combine vinegar, mint, star anise, and cacao in a glass jar; allow mixture to macerate for about three days. Mix sugar and water in a saucepan, then add flavored vinegar. Bring to a boil then cool completely. Strain into an airtight glass container and refrigerate.

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