If you drink in fashionable restaurants or bars, you’ve no doubt come upon a “vinegar shrub” on the cocktail menu.
Nonalcoholic drinking vinegars, these shrubs are the result of preserving fruit in vinegar and sugar and have a tart, but not overwhelmingly vinegary taste.
At one of Seattle’s hippest restaurants, the Korean fusion spot, Joule, you can sip a $3 seasonal shrub or have one mixed into spirits like the Kaffir-lime peach shrub with white rum, shiso and sumac. They’re also great added to sparkling water or sparkling wines like champagne, prosecco and cava.
The word shrub comes from the Arabic “sharab” which translates sometimes as syrup and sometimes as drink.
The American shrub can be traced to England, when vinegar was used instead of citrus to preserve fruits in the 17th century. Later, in colonial America, vinegar was poured over fruit and left to sit for a few days. After the fruit was strained, the remaining liquid was mixed with sugar and reduced to create a syrup, which could then be mixed with spirits or soda water.
But shrubs have an even longer history than that, dating back to Roman times when adding date vinegar to water would make it safe to drink.
Do vinegar shrubs have any health benefits? Many Japanese drink a daily shot of vinegar, for its supposed invigorating properties, and there are some who believe that apple cider vinegar is a natural energy source, though no large-scale studies back these claims.
But the tantalizing mix of sweet and sour makes vinegar shrubs a great addition to a summer cocktail or punch or a warm cup of tea. Here, two shrub recipes from renowned Chef Maria Hines of The Golden Beetle, Agrodolce and Tilth in Seattle.
The plum shrub is currently on the menu at Agrodolce, mixed with rum, chocolate bitters and Amaro. A cucumber shrub will work nicely with a gin-based drink.
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
2 tbsp dried mint
.5 cups cider vinegar
1 cup white wine vinegar
3 english cucumbers
1. Puree 2 large cucumbers, rough chop 1 large cucumber.
2. Bring water to boil, dissolve sugar.
3. Add vinegar, bring to boil again.
4. Add pureed cucumbers and let simmer 15 minutes.
5. Pour all ingredients into a container and add fresh cucumber, and cover with saran wrap immediately. Steep until cool (about an hour).
6. Strain through cheesecloth and fine mesh strainer.
1 part plums
1 part white vinegar
.25 parts sugar
1. Quarter plums, mash up with sugar, let macerate refrigerated overnight.
2. Add vinegar and let sit refrigerated for 1 week.
3. Strain through chinois.
4. Keep refrigerated.
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