What Is A Shrub And How Do You Mix Cocktails With It?

The syrup known as shrub has been around for a long, long time. It is believed that the birthplace of shrub — which was originally called sharāb (the Arabic word for "drink") — was Iran (the oldest country in the world). Descriptions of a drink called a sekanjabin, that combined sugar, vinegar, and fresh mint with water, later appeared in Medieval text. In late 15th century England, shrub was a form of a sweet, syrup liquor called a cordia, and in colonial America, a shrub was a refreshingly tart beverage made of fruit, sugar, and vinegar.

Today, shrub is the term given to a vinegar-based syrup that is sweet yet acidic. A shrub is typically made by mixing sugar along with fruits or berries with vinegar. A shrub has a citrusy taste. It is added to beverages to give them a more robust and refreshing flavor profile. You can add shrub to either a soda or a spirit and experience equally satisfying results.

How to make shrub

Shrub is a versatile syrup that has been around since the earliest civilizations. From 17th century England to modern day, shrub is a syrup that you could easily make from scratch at home. While the basic recipe only calls for three main ingredients, you can switch those ingredients up, add more, and modify the recipe to create your own signature version of the shrub.

To make a shrub, all you need to do is simmer equal parts water and sugar until all the sugar has dissolved. That's right, a shrub starts with nothing more than a simple syrup. Next, slice or lightly mash your favorite fruit and add it to the simple syrup. Continue simmering until the mixture becomes the color of the fruit. Finally, stir in apple cider vinegar or white vinegar (roughly the same amount as your sugar) and strain, discarding any solids. Congratulations, you've just made your first batch of shrub.

How to mix up a shrub cocktail

After you've learned to master the ingredients and you can simmer up the perfect batch, all you need to do is add the proper amount of shrub to your drink. Start by adding just one or two tablespoons of shrub syrup to a small 6-ounce glass of cold water or club soda to give yourself a solid baseline. This ratio should provide enough flavor to create the perfect summer drink. If it is a little too potent (or not strong enough), you can reduce (or increase) the amount of shrub you add. If you want to experiment a little, consider mixing shrub with ginger ale or another soft drink of choice.

For a stiffer version, add shrub to your favorite adult beverage. One thing that makes this ingredient so versatile is its ability to enhance such a wide variety of spirits. For example, consider adding berry shrub to a sparkling rosé to create the ideal summer backyard sipping beverage. Alternatively, you can try mixing 1 ounce of shrub with 1.5 ounces of gin or vodka and topping off with sparkling water, ice, and an herbal garnish for an amazing treat. If those options don't include your liquor of choice, you can also use whiskey, tequila, ginger beer, or mezcal. The idea is to find what works for you. Use different fruits to make your syrup and add it to different spirits till you find the winning combination for your summer affairs.

Where to get the ingredients you need to make shrub

The best part about making a shrub is all the ingredients are easy to source. In fact, you might not even have to visit a store because you likely already have water, sugar, vinegar, and fruit in your home. And that's all you need. It's best to use filtered water to make sure you are not inadvertently drinking any harmful substances, such as lead. Also, straight tap water may have a taste that adversely affects the final flavor of your shrub, so you want to filter out any unpleasantness, such as chlorine odors, as well. 

Start with plain white sugar. However, if that is not providing the burst of flavor you crave, consider another type of sugar. This can range from raw sugar to palm or even maple sugar. For vinegar, the primary concern is acidity. Whether you choose to use apple cider vinegar or white vinegar, just make sure it is watered down to protect you from eroding your tooth enamel or aggravating your stomach or esophagus.

The last ingredient is fruit. While you obviously want the best and freshest variety, when making a shrub, it is perfectly fine to use less-than-perfect options. The fruit should be in season, but farmer's market seconds are suitable options. And always make sure you thoroughly wash any produce you use for consumption to protect against harmful bacteria.

Is shrub healthy for you?

You have to be careful about getting too excited about drinking shrub. Before moving into what some claim are health benefits, it is important to remember that roughly 33% of the recipe for shrub is sugar. The fruits you add to the shrub are also naturally high in sugar. According to MyFitnessPal, an ounce of shrub has roughly 9 grams of sugar. The American Heart Association suggests limiting sugar intake to 24 grams for women and 36 grams for men. That means adding one ounce of shrub to a drink is approximately one-quarter to one-third of your sugar intake of the entire day.

However, on the plus side, shrub contains fruits, which are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Fruits also provide a wide range of antioxidants, including flavonoids. Also, roughly one-third of a shrub is vinegar. Apple cider vinegar, in particular, has been found to be an excellent source of potassium, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus. Additionally, some studies suggest apple cider vinegar may help lower blood sugar and cholesterol while aiding in weight loss. Other claims that do not have sufficient medical support to verify include lowering blood pressure, reducing acid reflux, providing relief from eczema, and more.