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Making shrub syrups March 18, 2012

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Drinks.
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I have discovered a new drinking obsession: shrubs. No, not plants. Shrubs are made from a shrub syrup, then diluted by adding to water, champagne or spirits to make a delicious, refreshing drink. The syrup contains three ingredients: fruit, sugar, and vinegar. This was traditionally a way to preserve fruit without the benefit of refrigeration or similar.

For my first attempt, I used raspberries, and tried the stovetop method for making shrubs. This is the quickest method, and I started by simmering some raspberries in equal parts of sugar and vinegar.

After about 20 minutes, the sugar had dissolved and fruit had broken down with the whole thing thickening somewhat. I pressed it through a strainer to remove the seeds, and was rewarded with a thick, flavourful syrup which I then left to cool.

The second batch I made, I tried the slower method: chop up the fruit (this time I used plums), add sugar, and macerate until you have the pieces of fruit in a sugary syrup. Then strain the syrup as above and add the vinegar, shaking to dissolve any remaining sugar (sorry, no photos of this version!). The whole process for me took 2 days: I left the fruit overnight to macerate and then carried on with the rest of the steps the next day.

Both methods produced delicious shrubs, with the fruit flavours of the second method maybe being more distinct than the first. I used apple cider vinegar both times, but other vinegars can be used too. Generally, lighter-flavoured vinegars are recommended but I am intrigued by this description of a shrub made with cherry and balsamic vinegar!

Once you have your shrub syrups, there are endless possibilities. You can add soda or tonic water for a non-alcoholic but very refreshing drink. The shrub was also delicious in champagne, in a gin and tonic, and with rum, lime and mint. I also found a touch of fernet branca helped increase the savoury flavours, if you want to go that way. Here’s one I made with the raspberry shrub with gin and a bit of tonic water.

Now, you may be put off with the idea of drinking vinegar – don’t be. The flavours are well integrated, and the vinegar offers a general tartness (and I think also helps dampen the sugar sweetness) rather than it actually feeling or tasting like you’re drinking vinegar. With the vinegar acting as a preservative, the shrub syrups can be kept for long periods of time, and apparently the tastes do mellow and change over time. I haven’t had mine long enough to see this happening yet (and I’m not sure my syrups will last that long!).

If you’re interested in making your own shrub syrups, Serious Eats has a great introduction: Cocktail 101: How to Make Shrub Syrups, and the Stirred, Not Shaken blog has some more innovative ideas about shrubs and flavour combinations.

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