Shrub Cocktails and Mocktails for Outdoor Entertaining (Guide)
If you have never heard of a shrub, you are certainly not alone. While these sipping vinegars have been made and consumed around the world for many generations, they largely fell out of fashion in America after the modern convenience of at-home refrigeration became common.
Shrubs, which are concentrated syrups made with vinegar, sugar and fruit, are used in some countries as health tonics and digestive aids and were popular during the Colonial Era in the New World as a way to preserve fruits, prevent scurvy and have a refreshing drink that could be stored at room temperature.
Now that artisan cocktails are in fashion, we are starting to see shrubs making a comeback in bars and at backyard parties across the country. They are easy to make, easy to store, versatile in drink recipes and, since they just feel like they are meant to be sipped on a veranda, they are particularly well suited for outdoor entertaining.
Another plus is that you can use the same shrub to make both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, so no one has to feel left out. In the past, shrubs have most often been used in refreshing, non-alcoholic drinks and mixed with water or soda water. However, it should be noted that you can also drink shrubs without a mixer since, after all, they are called sipping vinegars.
Serving shrub cocktails or mocktails to your guests can be particularly fun because they are not yet well known in most circles, which means your guests probably have never heard of this unique offering – unless you hang out with some hardcore hipsters. This means you will get to be the trendsetter in your crowd and show just how up to date you are on the craft cocktails that are taking over the adult beverage scene.
Plus, they can be served any time of the year, since you can opt for a refreshing strawberry or citrus shrub with vodka for summer or make your shrub with cinnamon or cloves and mix it with bourbon for a warming winter beverage.
Sipping vinegars may sound a bit too acidic for your taste, but well-made shrubs have a delicious balance of tartness and sweetness – plus, keep in mind that the shrub is just one part of the drink, since it takes the place of flavored syrups and is combined with alcohol and mixers (or just mixers if you are making non-alcoholic shrub beverages).
What is a Shrub?
Shrubs, which are also called drinking vinegars or sipping vinegars, are vinegar-based syrups made with a combination of vinegar, sugar and fruit. Pretty much any fruit can be used, and you can also add herbs or spices to create a variety of flavor combinations.
Once the shrub is made, it can be enjoyed alone or mixed with water, soda water, seltzer water or ginger ale for a refreshing, non-alcoholic beverage. It can also be used much like you would use simple syrup in cocktail recipes.
How Do I Make a Cocktail Shrub?
A quick online search will return several methods for making cocktail shrubs, but they fall into two basic categories: hot and cold.
For either of these basic methods, you will use one part vinegar, one part sugar and one part fruit. This means that, for example, you would use two cups of vinegar, two cups of sugar and two cups of fruit.
It can be just about any fruit that you happen to have on hand and you can use regular, white, granulated sugar, or you can opt for raw sugar or brown sugar. As for the vinegar, apple cider vinegar is probably the most popular choice, followed by wine vinegars. If you only have distilled white vinegar on hand, you can use that as well, but your shrub will not be as flavorful as one made with other options.
The hot method is faster and will give you a usable shrub in a shorter period of time; however, shrub enthusiasts generally agree that the cold method delivers a fresher, fuller flavor.
Here are the basic steps for using the hot method to make sipping vinegar:
1. Add one part vinegar, one part sugar and one part fruit to a saucepan and heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and there is a syrupy consistency.
2. Allow your syrup to cool.
3. Strain out the fruits.
4. Pour your mixture into mason jars or glass bottles and store in the refrigerator for up to about seven days.
Some folks prefer to add just the sugar and vinegar to the saucepan, dissolve the sugar, and then add the fruit.
Here are the basic steps for using the cold method to make sipping vinegars:
1. Put equal parts vinegar and fruit in a mason jar, secure the lid tightly, and shake it well.
2. Place it in the pantry or in an out-of-the-way corner on your counter to allow for about a week of infusion. Remember to shake it periodically to help the process.
3. Strain out the fruit and add one part sugar to the jar.
4. Shake the mixture until the sugar dissolves.
You can then store the mixture in the refrigerator for about seven days.
Keep in mind that you can continue to add a bit of vinegar or sugar to the mixture if the taste is to sweet or too tart. Also remember that you can include herbs and spices in the jar to infuse those flavors with your fruit and vinegar.
How to Make Drinks with Shrubs
Now that you have your shrub, you can either sip it just as it is, or you can mix it into refreshing beverages that are best enjoyed with family and friends in your outdoor living areas.
To make simple, flavorful, non-alcoholic beverages for guests of all ages to enjoy, mix one ounce of your shrub with about six ounces of a mixer, such as ginger ale, club soda or water. Serve over ice and garnish with fresh fruit.
To make shrub cocktails, you can experiment with all sorts of liquors and mixers, but you will basically mix one ounce of shrub with two ounces of alcohol. So, for example, you might mix one ounce of apple-cinnamon shrub with two ounces of bourbon. This will create a flavorful, warming mixed drink to sip on a winter night. You can also mix one ounce of shrub, one shot of liquor and a few ounces of a mixer for a lighter cocktail.