I attended the Yum Yum Fest in Madison, Wisconsin, last month and enjoyed several excellent shrub-based cocktails. Refreshing. The chefs I spoke with all used the cold process for making shrubs because it leaves the most fruit flavor in the drink. And that’s the process I’ve been using most often to make my shrubs. (I will write about the hot process and why to use it next.)
In theory, a shrub is made from equal parts fruit or vegetable, sugar and vinegar. The book I’ve been using as a guide, Shrubs: An Old Fashioned Drink for Modern Times by Michael Dietsch, is the result of Dietsch’s meticulous research, and each recipe modifies the basic formula to achieve the best taste. It also allows for you, the chef, to modify and adapt the recipes to your preferences. For example, a Madison chef with whom I spoke discovered that using less vinegar improved the ultimate flavor of his cocktail concoctions.
The cold process recipe runs roughly like this. Put fruit, let’s say a pint of blueberries, in a medium bowl. Add 1 cup of sugar. Combine and crush the berries. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 2 days. The blueberries macerate, soften and release their juice, in the sugar.
Meanwhile, Dietsch recommends, put 8-10 sprigs of lavender in a container and cover with 1 cup of apple cider vinegar. (This is an extra step and could be omitted.)
Strain the blueberry mixture in a fine-mesh strainer over a small bowl. I repeat this step at least 3 times to get all the juices and to remove any sugar that may still be clinging to the blueberry solids and wash it into the juice. The finer the mesh strainer the clearer your final shrub.
In this case, also strain the vinegar to remove the lavender sprigs. Otherwise, add the vinegar to the juice and combine. You can also do the rinsing step after you’ve added the vinegar.
Pour the syrup-vinegar mixture into a clean mason jar or glass stopper bottle. Cap it, shake it well and refrigerate for one week. Discard the berry solids or re-purpose.
After a week of storing in your refrigerator, your shrub is ready for mixing with water, sparkling water, sparkling wine or other cocktail choices.
Obviously, you have choices of fruits and vegetables for your flavoring, varieties of sugars from white or raw cane to turbinado to agave, and species of vinegars from apple cider to white wine/champagne and red wine.
So imagine strawberry-balsamic vinegar shrub. Or watermelon-basil-white wine vinegar shrub. Myer lemon-champagne vinegar shrub. Cherry-mint-red wine vinegar shrub (with dark rum). You get the idea.