You may ask what does a shrub have to do with Cocktails.
I am not referencing the boxwoods in your garden—I am speaking about Cocktail shrubs. These shrubs, with their history back to as early as the 1700's, were defined as acidulated beverages, made from fruit juice, sugar, and other ingredients often alcohol, were a way of extending the short life of fruits, pre-refrigeration. Today they are one more way to expand the Cocktail palette and add dimension.
They are made with seasonal fruit (no pesticides please), vinegar (as the acidifying ingredient) and sugar. In today's world the variations are countless. The common vinegar used is apple cider but I am partial with berries to use balsamic vinegar. Sugar, well the head spins with the varieties.
There are basically two methods for making a shrub. One involves heating up sugar and water, then adding the fruit and simmering. I myself, prefer the cold method which retains the brightness of the fruit's flavor and color.
The cold method is fairly straightforward. I generally start with a one to one ratio. One part fruit and 1 part sugar, placed into a bowl and left to macerate overnight. If the weather is warm, cover and let sit in the refrigerator. Do not hesitate to add herbs and spices into the mix at this point.The next day one is left with a thick syrup. Give a stir to mix in as sugar that has settled at the bottom. The fruit is strained off (pressing out as much of the syrup as possible, discarding the solids left behind) Whisk in the vinegar to the strained syrup and place into a clean bottle. Your shrub is ready for use. It should be kept in the fridge and given a shake before using.
The shrub lends a sweet yet tart aspect to a drink and is a delightful way to make use of the fresh fruit that is so bountiful this time of year.
Here are a suggestion of fruits, vinegars, and sugars that can be used:
Berries of all kinds, peaches, rhubarb, plums, apricots. Find whatever is in season at your local farmer's market. Fruits should be ripe, even a little over ripe)
White or brown cane, demarra, piloncillo, raw, I do not think I need to go on! You can choose according to the fruit used or your taste.
Wine, Apple cider, balsamic
Some of the combos I have made include:
- Strawberry with balsamic vinegar and black peppercorns
- Peach and apple cider vinegar with Thyme
- Fig and Balsamic
As always, let your imagination and tastebuds be your guide.
You can see my award winning recipe involving a Strawberry & Black Pepper Shrub with Prosecco at http://natascocktails.blogspot.com/2012/03/mionetto-sparkler.html
And please come join the party at Nata's Cocktails Page on Facebook.