Ever heard of shrub drinks? A shrub is a tangy and thirst quenching beverage that’s really refreshing and astonishingly simple to make.
Making a shrub is basically a way of preserving. It’s an infused syrup, made with fresh ingredients, fortified with apple cider vinegar and then aged, which develops its complexity and flavour. When freshly brewed, shrubs possess a strong taste of vinegar. However vinegar is the key to their amazing taste. With time, all of a shrub’s harsh vinegar edges round out and meld with the syrup to make the perfect hybrid of sweet and sour. Shrubs can make for a sophisticated non-alcoholic or alcoholic drink, especially for people who find syrups too sweet.
You can make shrubs with practically any kind of fruit and some vegetables. From forced spring rhubarb to summer berries and stone fruit. In winter citrus works well as does apple, pear and pomegranate.
As a general rule of thumb the sugar and vinegar ratio is the same. I generally make cold pressed shrubs however you can cook the fruit and sugar.
Here’s a few examples of great combinations:
Rhubarb + ginger
Peach + cardamom
Strawberry + lemon balm
Red plum + cinnamon
Pear + cinnamon + star anis
Pomegranate + pink peppercorn
Pink grapefruit + rosemary (Use the flesh of the grapefruit only)
* You can replace the sugar with honey as the sweetener.
Blackcurrant Shrub Drink
- 1 x 750ml sterilised bottle with lid
- 300 g Blackcurrants washed
- 190 g Caster sugar
- 3-4 Blackcurrant leaves
- 6-8 Lemon balm leaves
- 190 ml Apple cider vinegar
- Begin by placing the blackcurrants and sugar in a deep rectangular dish. Crush the berries with the back of a spoon or a potato masher.
- Place the blackcurrant and lemon balm leaves in a pan with 100ml water, bring to a simmer and then remove from the heat to infuse. Leave to cool. Add the infusion to the blackcurrant mixture and stir. Cover and place in the fridge for 3 days. Stir a couple of times within that period.
- When it's ready the blackcurrants will be sitting in a rich purple syrup. Now pass the the crushed berries through a fine sieve. Add the vinegar to the berry syrup and stir with a sterilised spoon. Pour into the sterilised bottle and seal. Leave undisturbed for at least 3 days before drinking. The shrub mellows as it matures.
- Serve diluted with sparkling water or tonic. Keep in the fridge for up to 3 months.
- Experiment with different fruit, herb and spice blends.
- Make sure your utensils are scrupulously clean and the bottle you store the shrub in is sterilised.