Posted March 2, 2016

A Spotlight on Shrub Cocktails

Eat + Drink CHI DEN SLC SAV

19th-century Bartender

A 19th-century bartender honing the craft of fine cocktail creation.

We’ve heard the term “shrub,” we’ve seen it on cocktail menus, we’ve maybe even ordered and enjoyed a shrub cocktail—but what is it? (It’s OK, I sometimes fake like I know what things are too, and try to figure it out in context!)

Back in Colonial America, fruits were often preserved with vinegar, as opposed to citrus juice, since the acetic acid is more robust and less prone to spoilage (they hadn’t gotten around to inventing fridges or Peapod yet). Those fruit preserves yielded fruit, yes, but also a sweet-and-sour syrupy liquid that mixed well with brandy or rum. Truth be told, in those days pretty much everything mixed well with brandy or rum because they didn’t have too many options and the alternative was stark sobriety—fine for some, but for the vast majority of America’s young but burgeoning population, completely unacceptable. After a long day of battling the frontier, working in the fields, dealing with smallpox, bad teeth, and arthritis at the advanced age of 35, our forefathers and foremothers were unable to Netflix and chill—instead they besotted themselves with as much efficiency as possible.

With the advent of cheaper and more widespread cooling, fruit preservation techniques, and Whole Foods, we found it unnecessary to essentially pickle our blackberries, instead relying on highways and jets to provide us with our delicate seasonal produce in a timely fashion.

Recently, we’ve seen the return of such historical oddities as shrubs, switchels, and even the occasional music video on MTV.

Shrubs offer an interesting alternative to citrus: cocktails can be made more translucent, as the solids in the citrus are absent. Flavors can be extremely varied, ranging from blackberry-and-balsamic to strawberry-and-apple cider vinegar, or even fennel-and-champagne/sherry vinegar. Additionally, acetic acid creates a different flavor sensation on the palate than citric acid. Want the final word? Go pick up Michael Dietsch’s definitive book on the subject, Shrubs.

Take a look at what we’ve been creating for you at our bars across the country!

Picnic Blanket
Sable Kitchen & Bar (Chicago, IL)
Bartender’s Note: “The Picnic Blanket is a play on a sherry cobbler, using an apple cider vinegar-based shrub to preserve summer flavors that have recently fallen out of season. The Manzanilla sherry is the base of the cocktail, and provides a light, herbaceous, and slightly savory flavor to build upon. The Old Tom gin and dry vermouth give the cocktail some sweet botanical notes and a little bit of boozy kick. Finally, the peach-basil shrub brings pleasant acidity, round flavors of soft fruit, and a hint of basil. The resulting cocktail, served over crushed ice and garnished with a basil leaf, is gentle and refreshing, a great presentation of sherry, and a time capsule that captures the feelings and flavors of summer, no matter how cold the weather might be where you’re enjoying it.”

Picnic Blanket Shrub

For the peach-basil shrub (yields approx. 3 cups):

  • 1 quart peaches, chopped (about 2 lbs.)
  • 6 basil sprigs, divided
  • 4 c. sugar
  • 16-oz. bottle of apple cider vinegar
  • A mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth

For the cocktail:

  • 1 ½ oz. Lustau Manzanilla Papirusa sherry
  • ¾ oz. Ransom Old Tom gin
  • ½ oz. Dolin dry vermouth
  • 1 oz. peach-basil shrub

Directions:

  • Prepare the peach-basil shrub (5 days total):
    • Wash, peel and chop the peaches.
    • In a large mixing bowl combine peaches, 4 of the basil sprigs, and sugar, macerating thoroughly by hand (we recommend wearing gloves).
    • Let the mixture sit, refrigerated, for at least two days so the sugar can extract the juice from the peaches and the liquid can take on a syrup-like consistency.
    • Strain the mixture through the cheesecloth.
    • Combine the strained mixture with apple cider vinegar at a ratio of 4 parts syrup to 3 parts vinegar, and add the remaining two sprigs of basil.
    • Let the mixture sit again, refrigerated, for three more days.
    • After three days strain one more time, removing the basil and other solids, and pour into a glass or stainless steel bottle or jar.
    • Refrigerate and use within 3 weeks, or can for longer preservation.
  • To prepare the cocktail:
    • Combine the sherry, gin, vermouth, and peach-basil shrub in a cocktail shaker with crushed ice. Shake well.
    • Serve in a rock glass over crushed ice, and garnish with a basil leaf.

Just Beet It
Pacci Restaurant (Savannah, GA)
Head Bartender Sidney Lance
Colorful beet syrup and a cardamom-infused shrub lend spiciness and depth to this summery cocktail.

Just Beet It - medium

 

For the cocktail:

  • 2 oz. Templeton Rye whiskey
  • 1/2 oz. mezcal
  • 1 oz. beet syrup
  • 3/4 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. Shrub & Co blood orange shrub
  • 1 persimmon, sliced thickly

For the “Sid-style” beet syrup:

  • 1/2 c. beet powder
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 c. filtered water
  • A mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth

Directions:

  • Prepare the beet syrup:
    • Combine the beet powder, sugar, and filtered water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
    • Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat.
    • Simmer for 10 minutes.
    • Remove from heat and allow to steep for 20 minutes.
    • Strain the mixture through the cheesecloth, removing all solids, and pour into a glass or stainless steel bottle or jar.
    • Refrigerate and use within 3 weeks, or can for longer preservation.
  • To prepare the cocktail:
    • Combine the whiskey, mezcal, beet syrup, lemon juice, and shrub in a dry cocktail shaker.
    • Shake well and pour into a coupe glass.
    • Finish with a slice of muddled persimmon.

Italian Silk
Panzano (Denver, CO)
Bar Manager Derek Lovell
Traditional Italian staple fennel shines when paired with vanilla bean and fresh citrus.

Italian Silk cocktail

For the vanilla-fennel shrub (yields approx. 1 quart):

      • 2 c. fine pure cane sugar
      • 2 c. water
      • 1 fresh fennel head, chopped
      • 2 whole vanilla beans
      • 1 c. Chianti-based red wine vinegar
      • 1. c Pinot Grigio-based white wine vinegar
      • A mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth

For the cocktail:

      • 1.5 oz. Belvedere vodka
      • 0.75 oz. vanilla-fennel shrub
      • 0.75 oz. fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice
      • 0.25 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
      • 2 dashes fennel bitters
      • Splash of club soda
      • Fennel and grapefruit slices (for garnish)

Directions:

      • Prepare the vanilla-fennel shrub (2 days total):
        • Wash, peel and chop the fennel.
        • In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, water, fennel, and vanilla beans. Bring to a boil.
        • Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 5 minutes.
        • Remove from heat and let cool. Transfer to a glass or stainless steel container.
        • Add the red and white wine vinegars.
        • Let the “mojo” sit refrigerated for about two days.
        • Strain the mixture through the cheesecloth, removing all solids, and pour into a glass or stainless steel bottle or jar.
        • Refrigerate and use within 3 weeks, or can for longer preservation.
      • To prepare the cocktail:
        • Combine the vodka, vanilla-fennel shrub, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, fennel bitters, and splash of club soda in a cocktail shaker with crushed ice. Shake well.
        • Serve in a highball glass over ice, garnished with fennel and grapefruit slices.

Spoon Fight
The Good Bar at Outpost Restaurant (Goleta, CA)
Lead Bartender Chris Burmeister
A fresh interpretation of classic Spanish flavors, sweetened with pineapple.

Saffron

For the bell pepper-saffron shrub (yields approx. 3 cups):

      • 3 c. chopped red bell pepper
      • 3 c. sugar
      • 1 t. Spanish saffron
      • 18 oz. distilled white vinegar
      • 6 oz. rice wine vinegar
      • A mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth

For the cocktail:

      • 1.5 oz. Sotol por Siempre
      • 0.5 oz. bell pepper-saffron shrub
      • 1 oz. fresh pineapple juice
      • 1 dash habanero bitters
      • 1 dash orange bitters
      • Rosemary sprigs (for garnish)

Directions:

      • Prepare the bell pepper-saffron shrub (2 days total):
        • Combine the bell peppers and saffron in a large tupperware container, and coat fully with sugar.
        • Cover and let sit 24 hours at room temperature, or until the mixture attains a syrup-like consistency.
        • Uncover, stir, and add both vinegars, mixing until all the sugar has dissolved.
        • Cover again and let sit another 24 hours.
        • Strain the mixture through the cheesecloth, removing all solids, and pour into a glass or stainless steel bottle or jar.
        • Refrigerate and use within 3 weeks, or can for longer preservation.
      • To prepare the cocktail:
        • Combine the Sotol por Siempre, bell pepper-saffron shrub, pineapple juice, habanero bitters, and orange bitters in a cocktail shaker with crushed ice. Shake well.
        • Straining twice, pour into a small vintage cocktail glass (or small martini glass) and garnish the rim with a fresh sprig of rosemary.

Bramble Mocktail
The Vault Bar & Lounge at Bambara (Salt Lake City, UT)

This light apple-pear shrub mixes well with club soda for a refreshing spring mocktail.

Bramble Mocktail

For the apple-pear shrub (yields approx. 2 cups):

      • 5 oz. white distilled vinegar
      • 2/3 c. + 1 T. granulated sugar
      • 5 oz. water
      • 1 whole apple
      • 1 whole pear
      • A mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth

For the mocktail:

      • 2 oz. apple-pear shrub
      • A splash of club soda
      • 1 thick slice of lemon (for garnish)

Directions:

    • Prepare the apple-pear shrub:
      • Wash, peel, seed, and roughly chop the apple and pear.
      • Place the shrub ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
      • Cover and reduce the heat. Simmer 3 hours.
      • Remove from heat and allow to cool.
      • Pour through a mesh strainer lined with the cheesecloth, pressing gently to extract the liquid. Discard all solids.
      • Pour into a glass or stainless steel bottle or jar.
      • Refrigerate and use within 3 weeks, or can for longer preservation.
    • To prepare the mocktail:
      • Shake the apple-pear shrub and club soda in an ice-filled cocktail shaker until frosty.
      • Strain into an ice-filled glass and garnish with a twist of lemon.

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2 Comments

  1. Roger Hope says:

    Great receipt, good website….but can you make it easier to print the receipt? Why isn’t there a print button on the page?
    Thanks,
    Roger Hope

    • Faith Yi Kimpton says:

      Thank you, Roger, good point – we’re working on the print feature and hope to have it live soon. In the meantime, we hope you enjoyed the cocktails!