The phrase “drinking vinegar” has never really excited most people; rather, it tends to disgust. But no longer will that misconception exist once you try your hand at making shrubs, a drinking vinegar that is both sweet and sour and incredibly juicy, fruity, and tart.
I, too, was skeptical of the shrub until I tried one. And it was so damn tasty — tasty enough to make me wonder why there aren’t more people drinking shrubs, and if that’s not testament enough, I don’t know what is.
So, stop drinking plain old juice and step it up a notch with this fancy drink, which is guaranteed to impress both yourself and your friends, while simultaneously keeping you cool, in both senses, this summer.
Here’s what you’ll need
Making shrubs is all about getting your ratios right.
The general ratio of fruit, sugar, and vinegar is 1:1:1, however I would suggest starting off with 1 pound of chopped fruit, 2 cups sugar, and 2 cups vinegar and then tweaking the ratios to taste.
I’ve found that the best vehicle for your shrub-making is a washed mason jar and the best sugar to use is white sugar, but if you’re feeling a different kind of sugar, I’m sure that would work just as well.
Here’s how to do it
The process of making a shrub is the same, really, for any fruit combination, and the best part is that the deliciousness that are shrubs are super easy to make.
First, you chop up your fruit and muddle and toss it with your sugar in your mason jar.
Then, add the vinegar slowly, so that you can taste as you go. Ideally you want the drink to be sharp from the vinegar, but not overwhelmingly so. You want just enough vinegar to cut through the sweetness of the fruit.
You want this mixture to sit for about two days, covered, and stir it once a day — by then it should be looking very juicy and taste very sweet, with a little sour kick from the vinegar.
And there you have it: your shrub vinegar-fruit syrup. Mix with soda water to make a refreshing soda-like drink that is both sweet and sour, and maybe add some booze to it to make an ultimate summer cocktail.
How to pick the right vinegar
The vinegar, I’m sure, is the most daunting part of this recipe, because no one wants to be drinking straight-up vinegar. That’s why I would recommend not using plain white vinegar, because it is super strong and sharp.
Apple cider vinegar is the way to go with most shrubs, as it is kind of fruity itself, and it’s pretty good for you, but champagne, wine, and other less strong tasting vinegars also work and meld well. Balsamic vinegar, however, only really works with certain kind of fruits, like strawberries and cherries, because it has such a strong flavor.
How to pick the right fruit
The fruit you use in a shrub should be very ripe and sweet. In fact, farmers market’s “seconds,” or fruit that is almost too ripe, are perfect, as are whatever is abundantly in season.
Berries tend to be the most popular fruit to use when making shrubs, because they are super flavorful, juicy, and sweet, however you can really use whatever fruits you have lying around. For berries, just portion out how many you want to use and then muddle them.
In the summertime, especially, using stone fruits and other seasonal produce is the way to go. For stone fruits, like peaches, just chop up the fruits and then muddle them.
You can also include herbs and spices in your shrubs, to give them an extra boost of flavor and fanciness. Some of my go-to herbs and spices include: basil, peppercorn, cardamom pods, ginger, and mint. You can use whatever herb and spice you want, just make sure it will taste good with the kind of fruit you are using.
Here’s a few variations to get you started
I would suggest just going to the store and seeing whatever produce is seasonal and looking very ripe and grabbing it to make your own flavor concoction, but here are some suggestions if you’re stuck:
- Tomato + basil + white sugar + apple cider vinegar
(Vinegar is not be added to any shrub with tomatoes in it until the second day — the first day should just be sugar)
- Peaches + raspberries + white sugar + champagne vinegar
- Blueberries + white sugar + apple cider vinegar
- Rhubarb + strawberries + white sugar + apple cider vinegar
(To break down the fibers in the rhubarb, let it sit with sugar for about two to three days first, and then add the vinegar)
- Strawberries or cherries + white sugar + balsamic vinegar
- Blood orange (juiced) + white sugar + apple cider vinegar
- Blackberry + basil + white sugar + apple cider vinegar
- Plum + white sugar + champagne vinegar
Soon you, too, will be able to say you love drinking vinegar, and watch all your friends’ faces turn from disgust to delight as they try your drink and ask for the recipe.