Spirt of Philadelphia First Friday 2017 Leaderboard

Mind the Shrubs: A Colonial Cocktail Ingredient Is Back in Vogue

Drink your vinegar
by Felicia D'Ambrosio on Jun 12, 2012 in Liquor
Mind the Shrubs: A Colonial Cocktail Ingredient Is Back in Vogue

With a name derived from the Arabic word sharab — “to drink” — the acidulated concoction of fruit juice and sugar known in Colonial America as a shrub fell out of favor as a go-to cold drink around the same time industrially produced foods began their rise to prominence.

The advent of home refrigeration dealt the final blow to the shrub, whose syrupy base was the primary method of preserving a fruit harvest long after it had been picked. Traditionally, home shrub makers would combine fruit or juice with sugar and vinegar, allowing the mixture to steep over several days or weeks before use. The sugar acts as a preservative of the concentrated syrup, which would be mixed with cool water to create a refreshingly tart warm-weather beverage.

“I think the historical significance is really cool,” says Phoebe Esmon, a Philadelphia bartender and principal of nascent consulting venture Spirit Animal Beverage Solutions. “There are so many kinds of vinegar, so many different flavors you can put into it,” she says, “and it really opens up the possibilities of adding flavor and acid to a cocktail without using citrus.”

Since acid stimulates the salivary glands, the sweet-tart liquid both quenches thirst while piquing the appetite, making it ideal for inclusion in apertif-style cocktails. Brandy or rum was added to shrubs in the nineteenth century; today, Esmon suggests starting with gin or whiskey as a complimentary base.

Unlike a cocktail brightened with citrus juice, which tradition deems should be stirred, shrub drinks can be shaken; they remain clear and won’t turn a cocktail cloudy, the way citrus will.

You can make your own shrub at home by macerating one part fresh, stemmed fruit — halved or quartered if large — with one part granulated sugar in a bowl in the fridge overnight. The sugar will extract the liquid from the fruit. Strain out the solids and mix your fruit syrup with one part vinegar — champagne and apple cider both make interesting pairings — whisk to combine, and voila, a historically accurate cocktail enhancer with a modern feel. 

Looking for a specific recipe to try your hand at shrub-making? Check out this recipe Phoebe contributed to Imbibe Magazine:

Strawberry Shrub Instructions:

Hull and slice 1 pint of strawberries. Place them in a pot with 1 quart of apple cider vinegar. Bring to a boil, then remove the pot from the heat and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. Strain out the fruit, then add 1 cup of simple syrup to the remaining liquid.

Then make it into a Strawberry Shrub Collins:

1 1/2 gin (or another spirit)
3/4 oz. simple syrup (1:1)
3/4 oz. strawberry shrub
Club soda
Ice cubes
Tools: barspoon
Glass: Collins
Garnish: fresh strawberry and/or basil or mint

Combine gin, simple syrup and strawberry shrub in an ice-filled Collins glass, stirring until chilled. Top with club soda, then garnish.

Recipe via Imbibe Magazine

Photo via Flickr user Chip and Andy

Recent Articles
spacer

Feedback

How are we doing? Tell us what you like or don't like and how we can improve. We would love to hear your thoughts!

*Name:
*E-mail:
*Suggestions:
 
There's an Underwater Winery in Croatia & It's as Amazing as it Sounds

There's an Underwater Winery in Croatia & It's as Amazing as it Sounds

Croatia is now home to a unique underwater winery run by Edivo Vina, making it the perfect spot to live out yo...read more ›

by The Drink Nation Jul 25, 2017
Best Bars For Outdoor Drinking in Philadelphia, 2017

Best Bars For Outdoor Drinking in Philadelphia, 2017

Whether it's to enjoy the first warm breezes of spring or the summer's sunshine, Philadelphia is full of great places to drink in the great outdoors....read more ›

by Drink Philly Apr 11, 2017
SPONSORED
Skybrunch Rectanlge Ad
Join Us For The 2nd Annual Drink Philly Summer Cocktail Social, August 16

Join Us For The 2nd Annual Drink Philly Summer Cocktail Social, August 16

After an amazing first year, Drink Philly and Beam Suntory are joining forces once again to host the second an...read more ›

by Drink Philly Jul 21, 2017
The Oval+ Returns to the Parkway, July 20

The Oval+ Returns to the Parkway, July 20

Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and the Fairmount Park Conservancy announced the summer beer garden on the Parkway, The Oval+, will open Thursday, Jul...read more ›

by Jessie Donofrio Jul 20, 2017
Things No One Asked For: The Hydrasatch, A Satchel Bag That Holds Mixed Drinks

Things No One Asked For: The Hydrasatch, A Satchel Bag That Holds Mixed Drinks

There's more good news out there for all those people who can’t possibly be without alcohol at their sides a...read more ›

by Ryan Hudak Jul 18, 2017
Flying Dog Terminates Brewers Association Membership, Cries McCarthyism

Flying Dog Terminates Brewers Association Membership, Cries McCarthyism

The Brewers Association, creators of the recently reported on craft brewery logo has lost one of its members: ...read more ›

by Alexander Frane Jul 18, 2017
A Canadian Company is Crowdfunding 'Interesting' Whiskey Stones

A Canadian Company is Crowdfunding 'Interesting' Whiskey Stones

Morgan Street Company out of Ontario is trying to crowdfund a set of 'unique' whiskey stones....read more ›

by Ryan Hudak Jul 18, 2017
Where to Celebrate Belgian Independence Day in Philadelphia

Where to Celebrate Belgian Independence Day in Philadelphia

Belgian National Day is commemorated on July 21, and that means this week you can celebrate the 186th year of Belgium's independence all week. ...read more ›

by Jessie Donofrio Jul 18, 2017
Celebrate Rose Week in Midtown Village, July 17-21

Celebrate Rose Week in Midtown Village, July 17-21

One of the summer's favorite beverages, rose, is being lauded this week at Chef Marcie Turney and Valarie Safran's 13th Street restaurants beginning M...read more ›

by Jessie Donofrio Jul 18, 2017
SPONSORED
View all Articles

Sign up to get weekly drinking news, bar reviews, events and more sent directly to your inbox!

Close