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.
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.
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.