Shrubs — Tickle your taste buds with tangy tipples

By / Photography By Jody Warner | September 01, 2013
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Drinking fruit shrubs (fruit, sugar and vinegar) in North America dates back to the 1700s. Unless you are a Colonial American history buff, however, chances are slim that you have heard of—let alone tasted—a fruit shrub.

The word shrub comes from the Arabic term sharab (a beverage) and was first mentioned in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1741. As our ancestors gathered the autumn harvest, long before refrigeration, vinegar was used as a preservative. The last of the harvest was preserved so that it would keep all winter long.

Shrubs were drunk straight, as a refreshing beverage, or mixed with alcohol to give cocktails a tangy acid flavor at a time when citrus was not widely available. (Just like everything in life, the perfect cocktail is all about balance: The vinegar’s sour flavor balances the sugar component of the drink.) The word shrub can refer to either the vinegar and fruit mixture or a cocktail made with vinegar and fruit.

Making shrubs at home is a fun way to experiment with a historic beverage and preserve the season’s abundant harvest. It is also a great way to enjoy locally produced vinegar, like the mild but flavorful apple cider vinegar from Kress Apiary in Burns Harbor, Indiana.

The Glass Onion Shrub is crafted from vinegar, pears, shallots, ginger and sugar. For a Thanksgiving dinner tipple, try the Glass Onion Cocktail with Road’s End Rum from Journeyman Distillery (Three Oaks, Michigan), some fresh green onion and just a little lemon. The flavors—and history—are just right for the holiday!


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