What is a shrub?

Shrubs have had different meanings over the years. So its hard to explain exactly what a shrub is. But the type we are focusing on is the acidity, sweet, fruity, tart syrupy like thing that we add to cocktails to create more interesting favours. Basically, its more of a acidic syrup. or a “Drinking Vinegar” Just like a syrup its made from flavourings and sugar, its the addition of vinegar that makes it a shrub. Shrubs where originally made as a way of preserving fruit. And there are many different recipes for shrubs. sometimes recipes call for alcohol to preserve the fruit, sometimes they leave out the vinegar and just use the fruit juices and sugar. What ever the case, the perfect shrub should always be a balance of sweet and tart. Which should stimulate the appetite while quenching thirst.

Shrub Making Ingredients

Sugar: Different sugar will pair with different fruits. However caster sugar will work well with everything. Its best to start with caster sugar as a base and experiment with the type of sugar you use after you’ve made a shrub or two and have the technique down.

Vinegar: Red wine vinegar seems to be the go to for many shrubbers. Apple cider is popular too, I’ve found balsamic works well with the shrubs I’ve made. but what I’ve found out most is, it doesn’t matter to much, once again this is a personal preference type of thing, and experimenting with the vinegar’s will help you get a better understanding of which vinegar’s work with which fruit and sugar.

Fruit: Ah, Fruit, This is the fun part. Deciding on your flavour of shrub. The possibilities are endless, Remember Shrubs were created to preserve fruit flavours, So why not keep to tradition and use whatever fruit you have that’s going of. That’s what i do, or go to a fruit market and see what they are selling cheap.

Alcohol (Optional) Adding a dash of alcohol, 20ML or so, will help preserve your shrub for even longer. A shrub will typically last 3 or so weeks refrigerated. With abit of alcohol you can double that time. I use it for shrubs that i wont be using very often.

Extra flavourings (Optional) Herbs, Spices or maybe just another fruit can add dimension to your shrub, make it that much more interesting or complex. use the flavour guide to help you pick a complementary flavour to your base flavour, Add about half of this second flavour so you don’t have two main flavours fighting for the forefront flavour.

Typically, The guide you want to follow for your shrubbing goes as follows. Equal part sugar, fruit, and vinegar. so,  An example recipe would be 500 grams of blackberries, 500 grams of caster sugar 500Ml of red wine  vinegar.  Then half the amount for the secondary flavour., so for this example. 250 Sage. Obviously This is all dependant on the flavour you use. Things may need adjusting. Sage can be over powdering so maybe for that recipe i’d actually only add 20 grams of sage. But the guideline is there for you to adjust.

Shrub Making Methods

So there are two methods to making a shrub, A hot method, which is the quickest. and a cold method, which typically takes 1 to 2 weeks. Personally, I prefer the cold method. I find it makes for a much more natural tasting shrub. and with the flavour having longer to infuse, to me it tastes more interesting, unique. It has more time to draw out the flavours of your fruit. But that could all be in my head just because its taken longer. Try both for yourself. The both have there pro’s and con’s Sometimes you just dont have 1 to 2 weeks to wait and see if something works.

Hot Method

The hot method works perfectly if you don’t have time to wait around for 2 weeks for your shrub.

Step 1) in a pan heat equal parts vinegar and sugar. Bring to a boil whilst stirring

Step 2) Once the sugar has dissolved add your fruit and any other flavourings such as herbs you want.

Step 3) Simmer for 10 minutes to release flavours

Step 4) Fine strain into a bottle and refrigerate 

Cold Method

Step 1) Quarter your fruit and in a jar with a right fitting lid, Add equal parts fruit and sugar. If you want to add any other herbs or flavours do it now. 

Step 2) seal the jar, Shake and store in the fridge for one week. After a week the fruit should be syrupy, Strain out that syrup into a bottle and add a equal part of vinegar.

Step 3) Put back in the fridge for another week, shaking periodically. The thing about shrubs is they mellow over time, so if after a week it tastes to vinegary or to sweet, just wait another week and it should balance out.