Spirit of Philadelphia 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:
 
Behind the Bar: Catherine Manning of La Peg

Behind the Bar: Catherine Manning of La Peg

We're kicking off a new interview series, Behind the Bar, by interviewing USBG Philadelphia president Catherine Manning....read more ›

by Drink Philly Jun 22, 2016
There Is Now a Non-Alcoholic Wine Made for Cats

There Is Now a Non-Alcoholic Wine Made for Cats

Ever wanted to share some wine with your cat? Thanks to Apollo Peak, you can now....read more ›

by Alexander Frane Jun 21, 2016
SPONSORED
Drink Philly Store Shirts Rectangle
Best Bars For Outdoor Drinking in Philadelphia, 2016

Best Bars For Outdoor Drinking in Philadelphia, 2016

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 Mar 10, 2016
A Spanish Winemaker is Producing Blue Wine

A Spanish Winemaker is Producing Blue Wine

We've all heard of red wine and white wine. But now, we can get what we've always dreamed of when looking through a wine list: blue wine. ...read more ›

by Ryan Hudak Jun 21, 2016
Celebrate 'Pork of July' at Standard Tap, July 1-4

Celebrate 'Pork of July' at Standard Tap, July 1-4

Head to Standard Tap for the entire Fourth of July weekend to celebrate 'Pork of July,' a special BBQ event with plenty of beer pairings. ...read more ›

by Drink Philly Jun 21, 2016
Di Bruno Bros. Has Opened a Bottle Shop at their Franklin Location

Di Bruno Bros. Has Opened a Bottle Shop at their Franklin Location

Di Bruno Bros. has a brand new bottle shop at their Franklin location. ...read more ›

by Jessie Donofrio Jun 17, 2016
Celebrate Father's Day Weekend at Chaddsford Winery's Little Italy Festival, June 18 - 19

Celebrate Father's Day Weekend at Chaddsford Winery's Little Italy Festival, June 18 - 19

If you're still looking for fun Father's Day plans, then head to Chaddsford Winery for a Taste of Little Italy...read more ›

by Drink Philly Jun 16, 2016
Head to the Delaware River Waterfront Promenade at Blue Cross River Rink Summerfest, June 15

Head to the Delaware River Waterfront Promenade at Blue Cross River Rink Summerfest, June 15

On Wednesday, June 15, the Delaware River Waterfront will offer an evening full of great food, drink, and ente...read more ›

by Drink Philly Jun 15, 2016
Pennsylvania Grocery Stores Can Now Sell Wine

Pennsylvania Grocery Stores Can Now Sell Wine

Governor Wolf approved legislation which will allow hundreds of grocery stores and thousands of restaurants and hotels to sell wine. ...read more ›

by Jessie Donofrio Jun 14, 2016
SPONSORED
View all Articles

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

Close