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  • Writer's pictureJohn B. Reyna

I want some shrubs. Shrubs are a drink that can get some love from me.

Updated: Jul 13, 2020

A few years ago, Shen and I took a stab at making shrubs. We had recently joined a fruit and vegetable co-op, and we found ourselves bombarded with more fruit and veggies than we could use in a normal two-week period. We looked for inspiration about how to use the exorbitant amount of wonderful produce and our bar patronage lead us to the idea of making shrubs. Shrubs are excellent mixers for cocktails and base ingredients for mocktails.

Our first step in the journey was to immediately order Michael Dietsch’s book, Shrubs: An Old-Fashioned Drink for Modern Times. It’s a beautiful book packed with the history of shrubs, shrub recipes, cocktails recipes, and soda recipes. If you are considering making shrubs, we recommend purchasing this book.

So what exactly are shrubs?

In general, a mixture of fruit/vegetables, sugar, and vinegar. If you consider the vast array of fruits, vegetables, types of vinegar (e.g., white wine and apple cider), and types of sugars (e.g., demerara and raw cane), then it’s easy to see how unlimited the possibilities are for creating something unique and delicious.

If you search for shrub recipes online, you will likely see recipes using either hot or cold methods for making shrubs. Dietsch recommends skipping the hot method and using only the cold method. In his opinion, the cold process is better because it doesn’t cook the fruit, which means the fruit tastes fresher. This makes perfect sense to us so we haven’t deviated from his recommendation. However, in the near future, we plan on making shrubs using sous vide cooking. In Death & Co.’s cocktail book, Cocktail Codex, they detail using the sous vide process at 135°F (remember, boiling is 212°F) to make fruit syrups. Their reasoning: to save the fresh fruit flavor and not cook the fruit. Since a sous vide doesn't cook the fruit for syrups, it should work the same for shrubs. We will describe our findings in a follow up post.

The base formula for shrubs is 1:1:1. From there, you can choose what direction you want to take the shrub. If you want it more acidic, use more acid. If you want it sweeter, use more sugar. We are not sweettooths, and thus we generally go bigger on the fruit and vegetables. Most of our shrubs hit closer to two parts fruit/veggies to one part sugar and one part vinegar. But you be you, and make it however you see fit. It will be delicious.

Below are two recipes that we created as well as two cocktails to go with each shrub. If you follow these recipes verbatim, you will make two damn good shrubs. Still, you won’t hurt our feelings if you venture away from these recipes and experiment with your own concoctions. In fact, it would make us very happy to see what we inspired you to make after reading this post.

Peach, ginger, and basil shrub

1.5 pounds of pitted and chopped peaches (about 1.75 pounds of whole peaches)

2/3 cup grated fresh ginger

1 cup sugar

1 cup white wine vinegar

15-20 basil leaves (about ½ ounce)

1. In small batches, smack the basil between your hands. This releases the aromatics without overly bruising them. Then, place basil leaves into a nonreactive container (we use mason jars), cover basil with vinegar, and store the mixture covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Take the rest of the day off.

2. The next day, place peaches, grated ginger, and sugar into a large bowl (or large mason jar). Crush the fruit, and stir to combine.

3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator. Allow to macerate for a day.

4. Once the basil mixture has sat for two days and the peach mixture has sat for one day, you are ready to proceed. Position a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl and pour peach mixture through to remove the solids. This is your peach syrup.

5. Strain basil mixture over the same mesh strainer, with the peach remains, into the same bowl as the peach syrup. Whisk well to incorporate any sugar that didn’t dissolve.

Tip: There may be some sugar clinging to the fruit solids in the strainer. For that reason, we recommend setting the strainer with the solids over another bowl. Then pour the syrup-and-vinegar mixture over the solids to wash the sugar into the bowl. Repeat as needed.

6. Pour the syrup-and-vinegar mixture into a clean jar/bottle. Shake well to incorporate, and place in refrigerator for at least 5 days before using. You could use this earlier, but it tastes even better when it has rested for a few days.

Here are two cocktails that we created with this shrub. If you want a non-alcoholic beverage, try 2 ounces of the peach, ginger, and basil shrub with 4 ounces of club soda.

For this cocktail, I was immediately drawn to using Calvados as the base spirit. Calvados is an apple brandy from the Normandy region of France, and apples go great with ginger and basil. Because of the shrub's sweetness , I wanted to add a bitter component to balance the drink out. Amaro Nonino is bitter but it also has an orange flavors that would blend nicely with the shrub.

Sunset in Normandy

1.5 oz Calvados (VS or VSOP)

0.50 oz Amaro Nonino

1.5 oz peach, ginger, and basil shrub

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake. Stain into a chilled coupe.

Next up . . .

Becherovka is a herbal liqueur from the Czech Republic. It is made from over 20 different herbs and spices. It has a ginger note that I though would play beautifully with the ginger in the shrub. I went equal parts to show how you don't need much to make a great cocktail when you have a flavorful shrub.

We've made a lot of great cocktails at Teakwood Tavern, and this is now in the top 10. It's spicy and refreshing at the same time.

Czech Mates

2 oz Becherovka herbal liqueur

2 oz peach, ginger, and basil shrub

Pour ingredients in Collins glass. Fill 2/3 with crushed ice. Stir. Fill remaining glass with crushed ice.

Now we step into the savory world of shrubs. Don't limit yourself to only fruits. Vegetables make incredibly flavorful shrubs that don't come across as sweet as fruit-shrubs.

Tomatillo, cucumber, and cilantro shrub

1 pound tomatillos, hulled and quartered

2 large cucumbers

1 cup cilantro (stems included)

¾ cup white wine vinegar

½ cup apple cider vinegar

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1. Place cilantro leaves into a nonreactive container, cover with vinegar, and store in a cool, dark place for up to 2 days. Take the rest of the day off.

2. The following day, add cucumbers and tomatillos to a blender. Blend until pureed.

3. Press puree through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium bow.

4. Strain the vinegar to remove the solids.

5. Add cucumber-tomatillo juice, vinegar mixture, sugar, and kosher salt to a jar/bottle. Shake very well to combine and refrigerate. Let sit overnight.

Below are two cocktails that we created with this shrub. If you want a non-alcoholic beverage, try 2 ounces of the tomatillo, cucumber, and cilantro shrub with 4 ounces of tonic water.

Tomatillos, cilantro, and cucumbers all scream Mexican cooking to me, and thus tequila and mezcal had to join the cocktail party. Lastly, we added the poblano flavor from Ancho Reyes poblano liqueur to bring it all together.

La Niña

0.75 oz mescal (we used reposado, but blanco would work well too)

0.75 oz tequila (we used reposado, but blanco would work well too)

0.50 oz Ancho Reyes poblano liqueur

1.5 oz tomatillo, cucumber, and cilantro shrub.

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake. Stain into a chilled coupe.

Next up . . .

A few weeks ago, Shen explored Luxardo maraschino liqueur, and we made a Hemingway Daiquiri. This is our play on that classic cocktail with the tomatillo, cucumber, and cilantro shrub substituting for the grapefruit and lime juice.

The Old Man and the Sea Daiquiri

2 oz white rum

0.50 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur

1.25 oz tomatillo, cucumber, and cilantro shrub

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake. Stain into a chilled coupe.

Because of shrub's high acidity and sugar, if refrigerated, they can last for long periods of time. Dietsch gives the year mark as when to pitch them, but he also claims to have drank much older shrubs and he still lives to tell the tale. We drink ours too quickly so I honestly can’t speak to storage beyond a few weeks.

There is no big secret to creating incredibly flavorful shrubs. I began by looking up which fruits and vegetables are in season. Once I was set on tomatillos and peaches being the base fruits/vegetables, I selected flavors that correspond to each base.

Peaches are wonder with both ginger and basil so that was a no brainer. The sweetness of both the peaches and basil balances perfectly with the bite of ginger.

For the tomatillos, I wanted a savory shrub that was enormously different from the sweet and tanginess of the peach, ginger, and basil shrub. I’ve always enjoyed cilantro and cucumber together, and the both of those flavors add a cooling touch to the acidity of the tomatillos.

We encourage you to think about some of your favorite fruit, herb, and vegetable combinations and make a shrub from those. As you've seen from above, it's not a difficult process.

Sending love from the passenger side of Shenandoah's ride,


















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