A Refreshing Spring Shrub: Drinking Vinegars Make a Comeback

Drink Features

Shrubs or drinking vinegars are made from a combination of fruit or botanicals, granulated sugar and vinegar and serve as a wonderful addition to your spring bar cart for both boozy and teetotaling treats. Home preservers have been making shrubs for ages—since Colonial times really—but they’re staging a serious mainstream comeback thanks to bartenders across the country who are experimenting with housemade shrubs using local and seasonal ingredients. Perhaps most notable are the drinking vinegars made at Chef Andy Ricker’s Pok Pok restaurants in Portland and Brooklyn that include flavors like tamarind and pomegranate.

At first the idea of drinking vinegar can sound unappealing, but before you write off the idea think about how refreshing a cold glass of sweet-tart lemonade is on a warm day. Shrubs are similarly balanced in flavor with the added bonus of endless flavor combinations and deeper complexity of flavor. Even though drinking vinegars are becoming easier to find in many parts of the country, they’re super simple to put together at home. Below you’ll find a recipe to make your very own shrub utilizing strawberries and ginger (no cooking required) and a cocktail to make with it.

Strawberry Ginger Shrub
Yields about 2 ½ cups
There are several schools of thought on how to put together a shrub, but this recipe uses a cold brew method to preserve the bright and fresh flavors of strawberry and ginger. For a non-alcoholic beverage try mixing the shrub with seltzer in a 4:1 ratio.

1.5 pounds strawberries
2 inch piece fresh ginger
1.5 cups granulated sugar
1.5 cups white balsamic vinegar

1. Wash, hull, and chop the strawberries. Peel the ginger and slice it into 1/4’’ slices. Place them both in a large glass container with a lid, a ½ gallon sized mason jar works well here.
2. Add the sugar, stir to combine then seal the jar. Let the mixture sit for 1 hour then mash the fruit with a muddler or wooden spoon. Reseal the jar and let it sit at room temperature for 24 hours.
3. After 24 hours, add the vinegar and stir well to combine. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for 5 days.
4. After 5 days strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve and discard the solids. Transfer the finished shrub to a clean container with a lid and store in the refrigerator for up to three months.

Strawberry Gimlet
Yields one cocktail
In this version of the classic gimlet cocktail, I’ve substituted a healthy dose of strawberry shrub for the traditional Rose’s lime juice. This cocktail is sweet, tart, herbal and just a bit boozy making it the perfect springtime refresher.

1.5 ounces strawberry ginger shrub (recipe above)
1.5 ounces gin
3 ounces spicy ginger beer (I like Fever Tree or GUS Dry Ginger)

Add the gin and shrub to a rocks glass. Fill the glass with ice then top with ginger beer.

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