Bottles of labelled cocktail shrubs and drinking vinegars next to a cocktail
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How to make cocktail shrubs and delicious drinking vinegars

Cocktail shrubs are the hottest new cocktail trend, but did you know drinking vinegars have been around for centuries?

If you’re getting into your bartending techniques, you may have heard the term “cocktail shrubs” thrown around.

The shrubs cocktail trend continues to grow, so this is a super easy cocktail technique to master and impress your guests.

In this article we’ll cover what exactly is a cocktail shrub, why they are called drinking vinegars, and the best cocktail recipes with shrubs.

 

What is a Cocktail Shrub in Bartending?

A bottle of red cocktail shrubs made with strawberries by a window

Cocktail shrubs, also known as drinking vinegars, are concentrated syrups made from vinegar, fruit, and sugar.

You can buy shrubs cocktail mixers from most drink suppliers.

However, they are easy to make and a wonderful way to bring new flavour combinations to your cocktail.

A cocktail shrub has a sweet flavour with an acidic note. Drinking vinegars mix well with sodas and work well in long cocktails.

Studies have suggested that small amounts of apple cider vinegar can help with maintaining the body’s glucose and insulin levels, as well as improving cholesterol.

 

Shrub Cocktail Ingredients

You can use any vinegar when making a cocktail shrub, but usually apple cider vinegar is a good ingredient to start with.

You’ll then need your fruit, and sugar of course.

The best thing about cocktail shrubs? You have a range of flavour options and combinations to experiment with.

A popular cocktail shrub recipe is using strawberries, as they combine well with the vinegar.

For sugar, we usually opt for white granulated sugar.

Granulated sugar breaks down easily and complements the flavours of most other ingredients.

But of course, there are many options open to you. Why not try out demerara, turbinado or muscovado sugar?

 

How to make Cocktail Shrubs

Strawberry and mint pickling in vinegar as part of the process of how to make cocktail shrubs

There are two main methods for making cocktail shrubs: cold and hot preparation.

With cold preparation, pour the vinegar over your ingredients and leave them to pickle over time.

This can be time consuming, so many home bartenders go for the heated preparation option.

Step 1: Simmer your vinegar and fruit in a frying pan for a minute or two.

Ensure the pan is on a low heat – you want to slowly start heating the ingredients, not flash fry them!

Step 2: Take the mix off the heat and use a muslin or filter to strain the liquid into a pot. Discard the used fruit.

Step 3: Pour the liquid back into the pan on a low heat. Slowly add your sugar and mix through.

Step 4: Once the sugar is dissolved take the pan off the heat and let it cool. Bottle your mix and keep refrigerated.

 

How long does a Cocktail Shrub last?

Cocktail shrubs will have a shelf life of between three to four months if kept refrigerated.

Investing in a sealable swing top bottle is a smart idea, as it will help keep your drinking vinegar fresh.

 

How to use Shrubs in a Drink

A bottle of amber cocktail shrubs next to some apples

Cocktail shrubs are used as an alternative for regular sugar syrup.

As they contain additional flavours, they will balance your cocktail rather than overpowering it with sweetness.

For this method, they work well in long cocktails like the Mojito recipe.

 

Cocktail Shrub Recipes

For each of these drinking vinegar recipes, follow the steps above to make the mix.

Heat your fruit and vinegar first, then strain out any fruit, add sugar and simmer.

Let the mix cool and bottle up.

 

Best Rum Cocktail Shrub:

Strawberry and Mint Cocktail Shrub Recipe

450g Strawberries (hulled and halved)

50g Mint Leaves

500g White Granulated Sugar

500g Red Wine Vinegar

 

Best Spiced Cocktail Shrub for Whisky:

Autumn Spice Blackberry and Cinnamon Cocktail Shrub Recipe

300g Blackberries

2 teaspoons Cinnamon

250g Brown Sugar

300 Apple Cider Vinegar

 

Best Cocktail Shrub for Gin:

English Summer Gooseberry and Mint Cocktail Shrub

450g Gooseberries

50g Mint Leaves

50ml Fresh Lime Juice

500g Granulated Sugar

450g Apple Cider Vinegar

 

Best Drinking Vinegar for Vodka

Raspberry and Peach Cocktail Shrub

350g Raspberries (hulled and halved)

150g Peach (cut into chunks)

500g White Granulated Sugar

500g Red Wine Vinegar

 

Cocktail Recipes Using Shrubs

 

Strawberry and Mint Mojito

Using the Strawberry and Mint Cocktail Shrub recipe above, make this refreshing long cocktail.

Ingredients:

50ml Rum
8 Mint Leaves
15ml Strawberry and Mint Cocktail Shrub (see recipe above)
8 lime wedges
Soda water

Method:

Make this exactly as you would the classic Mojito.

 

Spiced Bourbon

This warming cocktail using shrubs is great for the colder months of the year.

Ingredients:

50ml Bourbon
35ml Autumn Spice Cocktail Shrub (see recipe above)
Fresh Lime Juice
Soda Water

Method

Add 35ml of your cocktail shrub to a hi-ball glass.

Squeeze in a dash of fresh lime and build in 50ml of bourbon.

Add cubed ice and top with soda.

 

Gooseberry and Elderflower Collins

Using the English Summer Mix, this cocktail shrub is a great summer cocktail with gin, elderflower cordial, and soda.

Ingredients

50ml Gin
25ml English Summer Cocktail Shrub (see recipe above)
25ml Fresh Lemon Juice
12.5ml Elderflower cordial (or liqueur if you prefer a stronger drink)
Soda Water

Method:

Take a hi-ball glass and fill with ice.

Pour in 25ml of your cocktail shrub, then add the gin, lemon, and elderflower.

Top with soda and garnish with a lime wedge and mint sprig.

 

Raspberry and Peach Paloma

If you’re a fan tequila, using shrubs cocktail mixers instead of agave creates a unique twist on the classic Paloma recipe.

Ingredients

50ml Tequila Blanco
12.5ml Raspberry and Peach Cocktail Shrub
10ml Lime Juice
50ml Pink Grapefruit Juice
Soda Water

Method:

In a hi-ball glass, add cubed ice.

Pour in your tequila, drinking shrub, and lime juice.

Top with grapefruit juice and soda water.

 

Why is Drinking Vinegar Called a Shrub?

Bottles of labelled cocktail shrubs and drinking vinegars next to a cocktail

The other name for a cocktail shrub is drinking vinegar.

This makes sense, as the liquid is derived from vinegar and is something we drink in cocktails.

So why are drinking vinegars called shrubs?

Whilst you might think it’s because of the floral ingredients which go into the syrup, it comes from the Arabic word “sharab” meaning to drink.

Drinking vinegars were all the rage in the Victorian era and in Colonial America.

Home bartenders made shrubs to enhance their drinks with a refreshing and tart flavour.

Cocktail shrubs were also used as a method for preserving fruit. As technology developed, fridges meant this was no longer necessary.

Shrubs dropped out of popularity for several decades and are only now being rediscovered as a cocktail making method.

 

What Are Cocktail Shrubs: Explained

Which of these cocktails with shrubs do you like best? If you’re interested in reading more about making homemade cocktail ingredients, check out our posts on making sugar syrup, and the easiest syrup recipes to make at home.

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