Shrub prep!

We want… a shrubbery!

The Head Night (who says “Ni!”)

Late in the summer I purchased a Drinkmate to carbonate water at home. It does what it says on the tin—allows me to carbonate things, mostly water. I like the Drinkmate because it doesn’t break the warranty to carbonate other things… so I’ve been experimenting! However, that is a different post.

I wanted to spice up my water drinking habit. A stray post on Reddit about “drinking vinegars” caught my attention and I got sucked into the world of homemade drinking vinegars — or shrub syrups.

As best as I can tell shrubs are a basically a simple syrup infusion that are often fruit-based. The practice is rooted in old food preservation techniques. There seems to be all kinds of ratios, but they are often cited as a 1:1:1 ratio of fruit, sugar, and vinegar.

In my experimentation so far, I’ve found that I like to vary this ratio based on the ingredients. You can hot process (boil your mix) or cold process (wait a few days) and I’ve been opting for the latter.

For Labor Day this year, I started my experimentation with the following two recipes:

  • Grapefruit & lemon, turbinado sugar, apple cider vinegar
  • Blackberry & pluot with sliced ginger, white sugar, apple cider vinegar.

For the Christmas season, I just prepared two new recipes:

  • Cranberry, orange & grated ginger, turbinado sugar, apple cider vinegar
  • Blueberry & vanilla bean, white sugar, and 50/50 apple cider & balsamic vinegar

The method is straight forward:

  • Wash your fruits, cut & mash, and weigh
  • Add an equal weight of your chosen sugar
  • Mix the macerated fruit and sugar well and let sit at room temp (or in the fridge) for a few days until all the juice is extracted and the sugar is dissolved
    • I found that a stick blender worked wonders on the tough cranberries and stubborn blueberries. I didn’t blend long enough to make a smoothie, just long enough to break them down
  • After the juice is extracted, strain through cheese cloth or a nut-milk bag
  • Weigh the resulting syrup
  • Add up to a 1:1 ratio of your vinegar of choice
  • Refrigerate and let the flavors mellow

Once you have your shrub syrup just add 1 to 1.5 ounces to 6-8 ounces of your drink of choice for a flavorful soda!

I’ll share a small aside about oleo saccharum – oil sugar. For the syrups that involved grapefruits, lemons and oranges I follow basic directions to create this delicious oil sugar and then added them back to my final shrub to enhance the flavor. You simply combine strips of citrus zest with sugar, muddle them together aggressively and then wait. In about 24 hours you’ll have a sweet aromatic citrus oil sugar. I want to do a lot more of these and find other uses. They are delicious. It seems prudent to seek out organic citrus for this project,

I’m enjoying my shrub syrups. They are delicious and keep in the fridge for months. Does drinking vinegar have health benefits? Maybe. That said, a shrub soda is much healthier than a regular soda and far more complex and interesting!


Cranberry orange shrub with seasonal garnishes of frozen cranberries & cinnamon stick