Three simple everyday ingredients and a little time are all you need to make this classic beverage, my easy strawberry shrub! Sweet and tangy, it’s great for cocktails and perfect with club soda for a fruity “soft-drink”.
A Shrub: Not what you were expecting, right?
When you see this luscious ruby-red syrup slowly flowing into this ice-filled goblet, you know this ‘shrub’ isn’t a landscape item. It’s an old-time beverage base, made from three simple ingredients: Fruit, vinegar, and sugar. Add bubbly water, lemonade, tea, or champagne, and you’ve got one delicious sip!
What’s In A Name?
In this case, “shrub” comes an Arabic word, “sharab”, meaning a beverage or drink. Vinegar-based liquids and syrups have been helping us humans quench our thirst for centuries, partly for reasons of food safety and partly for the appreciation of tangy flavors.
Beloved in colonial America by the 18th century, these fruit-or-vegetable based syrups provided a means to preserve fresh produce beyond its season of ripeness, as well as a means of satisfying thirst for people working in the fields, traveling on foot, or tending a stall in the market.
Three Ingredients? Really?
Yes, and they are easy to find and won’t break the bank!
Apple Cider Vinegar
Is a Shrub the Same Thing as a Switchel?
Not the same, but they are surely first cousins! Both words refer to delicious beverages made vinegar, (apple cider vinegar is classic) and a sweetener: sugar for shrub, and honey, molasses, or maple syrup for switchel.
Shrubs are syrups, combining sugar, ripe fruit, and vinegar. They keep well, and when combined with water or spirits, the resulting beverage is also called a shrub. Shrub-as-syrup can go into a cocktail as one component, or lemonade as a color-and-flavor boost, in which case the finished drink would have its own name, rather than being called a shrub.
A switchel, equally old but especially popular in New England, was also known as haymaker’s punch, due to its popularity with farmworkers, seeking to quench their thirst on break in the hayfields. Switchels are a simple mixture of apple cider vinegar, water, and a sweet syrup, such as molasses, maple syrup, or honey stirred in, often with grated or dried ginger for a pleasing kick.
Soft Drinks and Beyond
Shrubs have long been used in combination with spirits, but non-alcoholic useage is common since the beginning. Mixed with club soda, mineral water, seltzer wager, or water as it comes from the tap, a shrub lights up your glass and makes a beautiful drink for everyday or celebrations.
What Fruits Work Best in a Shrub?
Berries berries and more berries! I’m starting you off here with strawberries, but remember: Blackberries work wonderfully. Raspberries make spectacular shrubs. All three of these beauties can be combined into a total treat — just keep the proportions the same: Fruit (one berry or a combo) plus apple cider vinegar plus sugar.
What about Blueberries, Cherries, Peaches, and More?
Blueberries will work but best to chop them up first so that their juicy flavorful centers join the fun. A quick buzz in a food processor — or put in a cake pan and mash away with a potato masher.
Peaches and plums? Same thing, chop and then crush them up! Cherries? Chop chop chop them up first. Those are the best, but you can play around with small batches and see: 1 cup fruit plus 1 cup vinegar plus 1 cup sugar!
How to Store Your Shrub:
Pour your cooled-to-room-temperature shrub into a clean glass jar and cover tightly with a lid. Place in the refrigerator and keep for up to 1 month.
When you’re entertaining, this easy strawberry shrub makes a delightful beverage for all your guests. Mixed with bubbly club soda or seltzer or stirred into tall tumblers of lemonade, it’s special, gorgeous, and a colorful and elegant alcohol-free option.
My Strawberry Icebox Pie is a beauty, which gives you pink pie perfection without turning on the oven (except to make a quick cookie crumb crust if need be). Or make a batch of my super-delicious Deviled Eggs, perfect for parties but just as wonderful to have on hand for lunches and suppers and afternoon snacks.
How to Make a Shrub:
- Chop your fruit or crush it gently if using blueberries or peaches or cherries. For whole strawberries, you can leave the green caps on — you will be straining and discarding the fruit after infusing its goodness into the hot vinegar.
- Heat apple cider vinegar and pour on top of the chopped fruit, so that hot vinegar covers it completely. Cover with a kitchen towel or a plate and let stand 24 hours.
- Strain the fruity vinegar into a large measuring cup, and discard the fruit which has now done its job.
- Combine the fruity vinegar with an equal amount of sugar in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring gently, and heat until just boiling. As soon as the sugar is dissolved and syrup is formed, remove from heat.
- Let stand until cooled to room temp, and then transfer to small jars to share as gifts, or a big jar to enjoy at home. Refrigerate and use within a month.
Here’s my Facebook LIVE video of making yours truly, making this very recipe for easy strawberry shrub in my kitchen!
- 3 cups apple cider vinegar
- 3 cups trimmed and quartered strawberries, fresh or frozen
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- Club soda; mineral water, or seltzer water to mix with shrub
- In a medium saucepan, heat the vinegar until it is steaming hot, just about to break into a bubbling boil.
- Remove from heat. Place the trimmed and quartered strawberries in a large heatproof bowl and pour the hot vinegar over them; vinegar should cover the berries by at least one inch.
- Let stand at room temperature for 18 to 24 hours.
- Strain the vinegar into a medium saucepan, leaving the berries behind in the strainer. Don't press them. Discard the berries, and add the sugar to the vinegar in the saucepan.
- Bring to rolling boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. As soon as the sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes, remove from heat and let the shrub cool to room temperature.
- Pour the shrub into a clean, sterilized jar and cover tightly. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.
- To enjoy your strawberry shrub, fill a tall glass with crushed ice, or ice cubes. Add about 1/4 cup strawberry shrub to the glass.
- Pour club soda, or mineral water, or selter water over the ice gently, so that the shrub stays at the bottom. Serve as is, and let each guest stir up their beveraage; or stir each glass to combine the shrub with the water and then serve.
You can make a larger or a smaller batch of shrub; just remember that you need equal parts by volume of fruit, sugar, and vinegar. Make 1 cup or 6 cups if you prefer
You can use other juicy berries, such as raspberries or blackberries or a combination of berries. To use blueberries, mash them gently in the bowl so that they are broken open, exposing their centers and breaking the peel. This will release more color and flavor into the shrub.
Use your shrub as an ingredient in cocktails! Or add a little shrub to lemonade or iced tea.
Nutrition InformationYield 12 Serving Size 1/4 cup
Amount Per Serving Calories 220Total Fat 0gSaturated Fat 0gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 0gCholesterol 0mgSodium 5mgCarbohydrates 54gFiber 1gSugar 52gProtein 0g