Craft Cocktails: How To Make Shrubs

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When I first heard “shrubs” used in reference to cocktails, I literally thought it was used as a leafy garnish. I came to find out I was dead wrong. After the embarrassment passed and I realized that it was, in fact, a tarty concoction that you make by extracting the flavors from fruit & herbs and jamming them into vinegar, my mind was blown. On its own, shrubs are a bit odd, so this is not something you’re just going to be sipping on a hot summer day, unless you’re really weird. Who just drinks vinegar anyway?!

Why are shrubs important in cocktails? Flavor. They’re similar to bitters in that they add complexity to a drink (albeit to a lesser extent here), you can basically make a shrub out of anything, and you can use them in a wide range of spirits and recipes. I’m sure people who don’t drink cocktails often use them in all kinds of desserts, but I like to use them to make people better looking while I drink bourbon. If you are one of those creative people who do cook with them, you can 100 percent use this recipe to make a variety of shrubs with reckless abandon.

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So how do you make a a good cocktail shrub? Super easily, actually! All you need is quality fruit, vinegar, sugar and most importantly, a really good playlist ’cause if you aren’t dancing while you make something fun, then you, friend, are doing it wrong.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds of your favorite fruit (ripe peaches used here)
  • 5 to 10 sprigs of a complimentary herb (fresh sage used here)
  • 2 cups of cane sugar
  • 2 cups of wine vinegar (more on this later)
  • A tiny bit of salt

 

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The secret to making a quality shrub is this: get some quality ingredients, especially the fruit that you’re basing the shrub around. And make sure you slice the fruit nice and thin so the sugar and vinegar make as much contact with it (as opposed to the skin) as possible. Try different vinegar types until you find the one that tastes best. Here I used white wine vinegar, but perhaps the flavor would have been different had I used an apple cider vinegar. This is where you can really put your own spin on things and modify the shrub to your liking.

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Thinly slice the fruit and place it in a large bowl. Take the sage leaves (used here, but you don’t have to use herbs) and place them on top. Throw in a pinch or two of salt and the sugar to cover the contents of the bowl (as seen above).

Fun fact: I like using my hands. That sounds weird but hear me out. You could use a wooden spoon here to mix the contents; but to make sure the job gets done, I’d say to just get in there and mix all the stuff together, leaving the mixture out at room temperature for a couple hours. Give it another mix and then cover it, put the bowl in the fridge and go to bed because it’s going to stay there for about 7 to 10 hours… unless it’s like 11 a.m., in which case, please come help me clean my apartment.

You’ll notice that it’s a bit “syrupy” at this point (that’s a good thing!) and it’s ready for the vinegar. Pour the 2 cups in and give it another mix. I wouldn’t advise using your hands this time because vinegar is kind of funky. Cover it and let it rest for a day or two so the vinegar extracts as much flavor as possible from the sugar and the fruit.

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We’re almost done! Give it a taste and decide if you like where it’s at (maybe you’d like to add a bit more sugar at this point). Take a clean bowl and using some cheesecloth and a wide strainer, run the mixture through it to separate the liquid. Place it in a glass jar with a lid and you have yourself a shrub. This one here (peaches & sage) works wonderfully with some bourbon and/or vodka, so give it a go and get creative.

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