Hold up. What’s a shrub?
No, not that kind.
A shrub is a sweet and tangy syrup made by combining three basic ingredients: fruit, sugar, and vinegar.
Soft, relatively squishable summer fruits like berries, peaches, or plums work well, but you can experiment with almost anything. You can use different kinds of vinegar; you want one with a moderate amount of sweetness and flavor, like cider or red wine vinegar.
The vinegar part might sound weird, but trust: It’s good.
Shrubs, also known as “drinking vinegars,” are sort of old-fashioned (they were the hot thing in 15th-century England), but they’re riding a revival trend wave these days. Combining vinegar with fruit and sugar and letting it sit (or cook) mellows out the acid and turns it into something tangy, refreshing and thoroughly delightful.
Get the recipe for this Balsamic-Cherry Shrub.
Once you’ve made a shrub, you can use it in drinks (both boozy and non) or as a delicious syrup to drizzle on whatever you want.
Get the recipe for this Plum Shrub here.
There are two main ways to make a shrub: hot or cold.
You can read more about the history of shrubs and the pros and cons of the two methods in this great basic guide over at Serious Eats.
The easier way is the hot way: Cook fruit with sugar and vinegar.
This rhubarb shrub syrup is a good option for impatient people. You can use it the same day (as soon as it’s cooled), instead of waiting around for the fruit to infuse the vinegar at room temperature. Rhubarb is a great candidate for hot-process shrubbing because it’s tough and stringy, and cooking breaks down the fruit and releases its juicy goodness.
The OG way is the cold way: Rub some fruit with sugar, let it sit for a while until juice forms, then strain and add vinegar.
Here’s a good visual step-by-step guide to making a simple (cold-processed) strawberry shrub. You can let it sit in the fridge anywhere from several hours to many days, but good shrubs come to those who wait: the longer it sits, the more flavorful the final product will be. The sugar is dissolved just by acid and occasional shaking, instead of heat.
This non-cooking method is slower, but the big advantage is that it preserves the bright flavors of fresh fruit. That matters most with delicate fruits like strawberries or raspberries.
Of course, you can always cheat if you’re in a hurry and just combine all the ingredients in a glass.
This “shrub” drink is just a mix of seltzer, cider vinegar, maple syrup and fresh fruit. And it looks totally refreshing and delicious. Get the recipe.
You can also take shrubs to the next level by adding herbs and spices or using multiple kinds of fruit.
Try this lovely, subtle Lavender-Kumquat Shrub.
And of course, you don’t have to add alcohol to a shrub for it to be delicious.
One of the shrub’s greatest applications is in delicious booze-free cocktail alternatives. All you have to do is add seltzer and you’re good to go. Here are three delicious shrubs to try: Raspberry-Lemon, Blueberry-Peach-Basil, and Plum-Orange.
Alright, class dismissed. Now go turn up with some of these boozy shrub recipes:
1. Peach Bourbon Shrub
Pretty peachy. Get the recipe.
2. Spicy Shrub Paloma
Tequila, spicy syrup, lime, and grapefruit shrub. Get the recipe.
3. Rhubarb & Roses
This pretty pink cocktail is made with rhubarb shrub syrup, Aperol, and bourbon. Get the recipe.
4. Tart of The Pacific
Kiwi shrub, coconut simple syrup, ginger ale and spiced rum. TROPICAL MADNESS. Get the recipe.
5. Blackberry Basil Shrub Collins
Shrub + seltzer + vodka is a pretty foolproof general formula. Get the recipe.
6. The Hot Pink
This gorgeous drink is actually made with a beet, celery, and horseradish shrub. Surprise! Get the recipe.
7. Strawberry-Rhubarb Shrub + Tequila
Mix this shrub syrup with tequila and seltzer. A few drops of bitters are nice, too, if you’ve got them.
8. Mango Shrub Michelada
Is it a margarita? A michelada? A shrub? All of the above? Guess you’ll have to drink it and find out. Get the recipe.
9. Apricot & Thyme Gin Shrub
10. Plum Shrub Cocktail
This pretty drink is made with bourbon and sherry. Get the recipe.
11. Raspberry Shrub + Gin
Gin and raspberries get along very well. Get the recipe.
12. Nacho Vidal
This one’s cool: Make a quick and easy cooked shrub with lime juice and hot pepper flakes, then mix with tequila, citrus, and Campari. Get the recipe.
13. Honey Blackberry Shrub Punch
Purple shrub + mint, bourbon, and seltzer. And there goes your afternoon. Get the recipe.
14. Summer Breeze
This classy (but admittedly complicated) cocktail is made with fennel-apple-rhubarb shrub (fancy!), vodka, Lillet, and other good things. Get the recipe.
15. Blackberry-Rum Shrub
Balsamic vinegar works well with a dark, assertive fruit like blackberries. Get the recipe.