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Shrubs (or drinking vinegars as they are alternately referred to as) are the perfect balance of sweet and tangy flavors, adding zest to cocktails that have made them a popular presence in upscale establishments. Derived from the Arabic word sharab, meaning drink, shrubs made of spices and rose petals were used by Middle Easterners for enhanced flavor. For the discerning drinker, shrubs deliver a great blend of depth and acidity, making them a perfect complement to many cocktails.
Flavor Combinations to Pair With Shrubs
The variables used to make shrubs – from fruit juices and sugar, cold or hot press – are all uniquely combined to yield your personal taste.
Some shrub recipes involve alcohol steeped with acid, fruit, or sugar. Whether in plain or sparkling water, shrubs are ideal for the base when making cocktails as well.
There are additional ingredients you can use to make shrubs, including cider, champagne, turbinado, sherry, and balsamic. The most important aspect to realize is that striking the perfect balance and right proportions yields the best results when making shrubs; their bold flavor serves as a great mix with most cocktails. Sweeter shrubs like blood orange mixes well with darker liquors – particularly rum – and sour shrubs work well with lighter liquors like vodka. Shrubs are ultimately about what your own palate. So if you find your shrubs are a tad too sweet, add a splash of vinegar. Conversely, add sugar to reduce bitterness. Once you find the perfect balance between vinegar, sugar, and water, it is possible to layering to your desired taste.
When it comes to making shrubs, not all vinegars are created equally. Although you can use most vinegars to make shrubs, plain white vinegar yields a sharp taste and is not recommended. Cider vinegar is the most commonly used, with coconut vinegar, wine vinegar, and champagne vinegar other available options. A splash of balsamic vinegar produces great depth in berry shrubs.
If you really want to pack in the taste, then use white sugar, which allows fruit to retain more of its original flavor. Brown sugar adds an additional layer of flavor. Other options to use for shrubs include agave juice, maple syrup, or honey.
Add even more depth and zest to your shrubs with herbs and spices that can be used as additional ingredients. Other possible options include basil, rosemary, fennel, thyme, figs, and peppercorns, to name a few. Instead of using fruit, you may opt for vegetables, with the general rule of thumb being any used in salads can also be used to make shrubs.
How To Make a Shrubs
The possibilities are literally endless when it comes to making shrubs, with the actual process involving individualized creativity to produce a desired flavor. The beauty of shrubs is that they can be enjoyed year round with a wide range of fruits – from peaches and berries during the summer to grapefruits and pomegranates during the winter. If you’re not an avid drinker, fret not: shrubs are well suited for non-alcoholic as well, offering a versatility to mocktails that produces exceptional taste. There are two approaches to making shrubs: the cold or hot process. The cold process requires more time, but is the preferred method as the ingredients retain more of their flavor. The hot process produces less flavor, but is the quickest method when time is a consideration.
There are a wide range of options available for making shrubs as well as equipment (which you can find by clicking HERE). Depending on your personal tastes, you may end up adopting quite a few shrub recipes. The following is one simple recipe to make a shrub.
In a pan, combine 2 cups of chopped fruit (lemons, berries with 1 cup of sugar, crushing with a wooden spoon.
Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.
Using a fine mesh sieve, strain the juice, and then transfer into a glass jar.
Add 1 cup of white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar’ mix all ingredients
Cover and place in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Once a shrub has been made, they can retain all of their flavor simply by placing in the refrigerator, lasting up to a few months for you to enjoy!