If you, like me, are among the leagues of Americans trying to cut back on alcohol during these dog days of summer, then indulge me in five minutes of your time for a soapbox about shrubs.
Shrubs are a syrup-like concoction that is also known as “drinking vinegar.” Though they started as a way to elongate the life of easily-spoilt fruits during the pre-refrigeration era, they came back into popularity in the early 2010s as a fancy cocktail component. Most recently (and notably, perhaps), they were heralded in the May issue of Bon Appetit as an easy-to-make solution for preserving berries not eaten quickly enough in their prime.
So far, you’re likely to have reached one of the three following conclusions:
- that sounds complicated,
- that sounds frou-frou, and
- I can’t make that at home.
I’m here to tell that you’re wrong! Shrubs are easy to make but complex and layered in taste, completely accessible for you, yes you, and perhaps most importantly, composed of ingredients you already have in your house.
All that you need to make shrubs is some sort of fruit that has perhaps slipped a bit into the funkiness of late summer, some white vinegar and a bit of sugar. By muddling the fruit and about a cup of sugar together and leaving it to sit on the counter overnight, you make a thick, sweet fruit paste. Strain the solids out and add a cup of white vinegar. Taste, adjust, then store in the refrigerator. The taste blossoms with time, and it is absolutely lip-smacking at about a week from its genesis.
If jars of preserved fruits or vegetables have a tendency to disappear into your refrigerator never to be seen again, never fear: this jar will go fast. My husband and I have been stirring about an ounce into a glass of seltzer water and topping it with fresh herbs on nights when we crave something summery and special without the boozy aftertaste. (Of course, we’ve also tested these shrub seltzers with gin, vodka, and rum added to it, and we’re here to assure you that they’re quite good as well.)
So look around the pantry. Dive into the dark recesses of your crisper drawers. What summery fruits are limping along on their last legs? For me, a bowl of nectarines is calling my name. I think I may add a stick of cinnamon to its sugary sleepover and try to make something a bit warmer for those crisp fall days ahead. Fall has to come sometime, right?
Our new hybrid cocktail classes allow for both in-person guests at the Merchandise Mart and virtually from home. That means you can participate in the same class, no matter wherever you are! Check out these upcoming cocktail classes:
- Sparkling Cocktails Friday, September 10 6:30pm CST
- Sweet vs Sour: How to Customize Cocktails Friday, September 24 6:30pm CST