Haven't heard of shrubs? No, not the bushy plants — the awesome fruity infusions that make for amazing spritzers and cocktails. Don't worry, we hadn't heard of them either. But the more we learn about them, the more we want to make one right now.
The idea is simple: make a mix of fruit, vinegar and sugar and let it sit around for a while. Shrubs have actually been around for hundreds of years, when folks used the vinegar to preserve fresh fruit. As the mixture sits, the vinegar pulls out lots of the fruits' sweetness, giving you an intense, flavorful liquid you can enjoy without the typical vinegar pucker.
It all starts with the fruit
You can use almost any type of fruit to make a shrub, from berries to stone fruits. And barely any prep is needed — just chop up larger fruits or gently smush berries! You could leave the fruit whole, but it slows down the infusion process big time.
Add the sugar (because everything's better with sugar)
Plain, white sugar lets the flavor of the fruit shine! You can use other sugars — such as brown sugar or raw sugar — to give your shrubs a bit more complexity. Any sugar is really fair game, but note that some (like maple sugar or coconut sugar) can make a big impact on the finished flavor.
And top it all off with vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is my go-to for making shrubs. Its natural sweetness goes well with the fresh fruits, and it's super affordable. Balsamic vinegar pairs well with dark red fruits while white balsamic vinegar is a nice match for lighter-fleshed fruits. But stay away from white vinegar, rice vinegar or red wine vinegar — those strong vinegars will be hard to swallow, even in a shrub.
Making your shrub: It's all about the ratio
A basic shrub is made with 1 part fruit, 1 part sugar and 1 part vinegar. (See? Easy.) You can play around with the ratios, of course! For instance, if you have a particularly tart batch of berries, you might want to add more sugar to the mix.
Here are a few of our favorite shrub concoctions:
Place 4 ounces fresh raspberries in a closed container and gently crush them. Add 4 ounces white sugar and 4 ounces apple cider vinegar. Close the container and shake. Store in the fridge for 2-3 days. After 2-3 days, taste the liquid. Let steep longer for a stronger flavor. When the shrub tastes how you want, strain out the fruit and return the liquid to the fridge.
Substitute 4 ounces chopped, hulled strawberries for the raspberries and follow the same process.
Substitute 4 ounces chopped, pitted peaches (no peeling necessary) for the raspberries and follow the same process.
To add in other flavors, add a few sprigs of a favorite herb (strawberries + thyme, or raspberries + mint) or a piece of citrus peel (orange + peach) as you combine your ingredients and allow them to steep.
Once your shrub is made, it's time to raise a glass! The easiest way to enjoy a shrub is to combine 1½ ounces of shrub with 4-6 ounces sparkling water to make a tangy, fruity soda. You can also add an ounce of shrub to a favorite cocktail recipe to give it a fruity twist.