Spirit of Philadelphia - Yards Cruise Series 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:
 
Head to Bainbridge Street Barrel House's Queen Village Summer Block Party, August 27

Head to Bainbridge Street Barrel House's Queen Village Summer Block Party, August 27

The end of summer is fast approaching, so celebrate the season at Bainbridge Street Barrel House's Queen Villa...read more ›

by Drink Philly Aug 24, 2016
Check Out 1 Tippling Place's Indian-Inspired Cocktail Menu

Check Out 1 Tippling Place's Indian-Inspired Cocktail Menu

Head to 1 Tippling Place and grab one of these inspired cocktails — that way, you can take a trip to India without leaving Chestnut Street. ...read more ›

by Drink Philly Aug 18, 2016
SPONSORED
Skybrunch Rectanlge Ad
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
Garage's New Location in Fishtown is Now Open

Garage's New Location in Fishtown is Now Open

Passyunk Avenue's Garage is expanding its reach to northern Philly, with a second location in Fishtown at Frankford & Girard....read more ›

by Drink Philly Aug 18, 2016
Dogs Now Have Their Own Non-Alcoholic Wine

Dogs Now Have Their Own Non-Alcoholic Wine

Now, dog lovers can share in the joy of drinking with their pet, as Apollo Peak has finally released dog wine....read more ›

by Alexander Frane Aug 16, 2016
Dogfish Head's Newest Beer Is Nautically Inspired

Dogfish Head's Newest Beer Is Nautically Inspired

What could say 'summer in Charm City' more than a partnership between a beach-based brewing company from neighboring Delaware and Baltimore's notable ...read more ›

by Jennifer Waldera Aug 16, 2016
Check Out Chaddsford Winery's Food Truck Festival, August 20 & 21

Check Out Chaddsford Winery's Food Truck Festival, August 20 & 21

Head to Chaddsford Winery on Saturday, August 20 and Sunday, August 21 for their Summer Food Truck Festival....read more ›

by Drink Philly Aug 15, 2016
The New Pennsylvania Liquor Reform Laws Have Taken Effect: Here's What They Mean for You

The New Pennsylvania Liquor Reform Laws Have Taken Effect: Here's What They Mean for You

We were very excited to report that Pennsylvania liquor stores would soon be allowed to sell wine, and now, Ac...read more ›

by Jessie Donofrio Aug 10, 2016
Federal Distilling's New Tasting Room & Cocktail Bar In Kensington Is Now Open

Federal Distilling's New Tasting Room & Cocktail Bar In Kensington Is Now Open

Philadelphia's own Federal Distilling, which produces Stateside Vodka, is opening a brand new tasting room, th...read more ›

by Drink Philly Aug 10, 2016
SPONSORED
View all Articles

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

Close