A shrub drink is a simple, refreshing beverage made with vinegar and fruit! Drink it as a cocktail or mocktail.
Here’s a fruity, refreshing drink everyone should try at least once: the Shrub! This sweet and sour drink works as a cocktail or a mocktail, pairing a fruity vinegar syrup with soda. This historical drink has become popular at bars, restaurants and with home cooks in the past years, because it’s so refreshing and ripe for unlimited variations. It’s very simple to make a shrub drink at home: all you need are 2 days and a bit of fruit, vinegar and sugar. It makes a killer cocktail and just as killer mocktail!
What is a shrub?
The shrub is a drink made with a fruit-infused vinegar syrup and sparkling water, either as a soft drink or with alcohol to make it a cocktail. The drink stems back to 17th century England, where vinegar was used to preserve berries and other fruits. Shrubs became popular in America in the 19th century. The typical method was to pour vinegar over berries and allow the mixture to ferment for a few days, then add sugar or honey and reduce the mixture into a syrup.
Shrubs went out of fashion after the invention of refrigeration, but they have surged in popularity today. They’re featured on American bar and restaurant menus, where bartenders often have their own signature flavors and blends.
Making the shrub syrup
After we enjoyed a basil shrub on a recent night out, we were inspired to try a hand at shrub making ourselves. Turns out, it’s incredibly simple and easily customizable to the ingredients you have on hand. Here’s the basic process:
- Combine equal parts sugar and vinegar. We like the flavor of red wine vinegar here, but you can also use apple cider vinegar, Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar. Stay away from white vinegar (it’s much too strong) or balsamic vinegar (also too strong). You can add a drizzle of balsamic to a wine or cider vinegar if you like the flavor.
- Chop and muddle fruit, then add to the vinegar. Use the same quantity of sugar and vinegar. This is where you can get creative! We used blueberries here and gently mashed them before adding to the vinegar mixture. Other ideas? Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, apples, peaches, pears or plums would work well here.
- Add herbs or spices if desired. If you’d like, add any herbs you have on hand or whole spices. Some ideas include rosemary, thyme, mint, sage, cardamom pods, peppercorns, star anise, or cinnamon sticks.
- Refrigerate for 2 days, then strain. This allows the flavors to fully permeate into the syrup. After 2 days, strain through a fine mesh strainer.
How to make a shrub drink (mocktail)
Got your shrub syrup? Now you can make a shrub drink! One nice thing about a shrub is that it’s equally as good as a cocktail and a mocktail (we think). Mixing the syrup with bubbles makes a tangy, sweet tart drink that’s incredibly refreshing. Here’s what to do:
- Add 1 ounce shrub syrup and 3 ounces sparkling water to a glass. You can mix it right in the glass! 1 ounce equals 2 tablespoons, if you’re measuring with tablespoons.
- Stir well! If you don’t stir well and you drink with a straw, you can get a surprisingly vinegary first sip (it happened to us). Make sure it’s full integrated as a drink.
- Garnish. Add ice and garnish with fresh berries and herbs.
How to make a shrub cocktail
A shrub cocktail is a fun and refreshing way to make a summer drink. It’s great for parties or vacations because you can mix up a big jar of the syrup in advance. The recipe below makes 1 ½ cups shrub syrup, enough for 12 drinks. Here’s how to make a shrub cocktail:
- Add 1 ounce shrub syrup, 1 ½ ounces gin or aquavit, 1 teaspoon simple syrup and 2 ounces sparkling water to a glass. The flavors are great with gin, though you could use vodka as well. We also like it with aquavit, a Scandinavian distilled spirit. We also found the flavors could use a little extra sweetness for the cocktail version: you can use simple syrup or maple syrup.
- Stir well! Stir well to make sure the syrup becomes fully incorporated in the drink.
- Garnish. Add ice and garnish with fresh berries and herbs.
More fruity drinks
Love to mix up special drinks? Here are a few more fun cocktails and mocktails that are great for summer:
- Try a Blueberry Mojito or Blueberry Margarita
- Grab a Peach Daiquiri or Easy Peach Sangria
- Go for Strawberry Basil Cocktail or Strawberry Soda
- Try Raspberry Mojito or Raspberry Lime Rickey
This shrub drink recipe is…
Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free and gluten-free.Print
How to Make a Shrub (Cocktail or Non-Alcoholic)
- Prep Time: 2 days
- Cook Time: 0 minutes
- Total Time: 48 hours
- Yield: 1 ½ cups syrup 1x
The shrub drink is a simple, refreshing beverage made with vinegar and fruit! Drink it as a cocktail or mocktail.
For the syrup (makes 1 ½ cups, enough for 12 drinks)
- 1 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 cup fruit, chopped or muddled* (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, peaches, plums, apples, pears, etc)
- 1 cup sugar
- Optional: add whole herbs or spices like rosemary, mint, thyme, cardamom pods, peppercorns, star anise, etc
For the cocktail
- 1 ounce** shrub syrup
- 1 ½ ounce gin or aquavit
- 1 teaspoon simple syrup or maple syrup
- 2 ounces sparkling water
For the mocktail
- 1 ounce shrub syrup
- 6 to 8 ounces sparkling water (to taste)
- Make the syrup (2 days): In a covered container, stir together the vinegar and sugar. Chop and/or muddle (lightly mash) the fruit and add it to the mixture, along with any whole herbs. Refrigerate for 2 days.
- Strain: Strain the syrup through a fine mesh strainer into a jar. Store the syrup refrigerated for up to 2 months.
- Make the drinks: When ready to drink, place the shrub syrup, optional gin or aquavit and simple syrup, and sparkling water in a glass and stir well. If desired, garnish with more fruit and herbs.
*Shown in the photograph is a blueberry mint shrub.
**1 ounce = 2 tablespoons
- Category: Drink
- Method: No Cook
- Cuisine: Cocktail
- Diet: Vegan
Keywords: Shrub drink, shrub cocktail, what is a shrub
Can one make larger amount of syrup to keep on hand for future use? How long would it last? Thanks.
You can make a larger amount for sure! The syrup lasts up to 2 months (added this to the recipe — thank you!).
didn’t know about shrubs, until I read this, great to know and love the vinegar base, sure not to be too sweet!
Yum!! Such simple directions and lovely photos! I am going to make a supply of this to keep in my ‘fridge for when we have company over. What a cool recipe!