What is a shrub? You may ask. I sure did at least. I didn’t really drink until I was 21 and I’ve always felt a little behind on the whole understanding cocktails thing. Which is a little bit ridiculous when you think about it; it really shouldn’t matter, especially since it is the law and all that jazz. I’ve never been a partier and I don’t see the justification in spending $15 for a drink and as a result, I experiment at home where I can promptly fall asleep before midnight. Let’s be real, it’s often before 11. But I digress.
A shrub is a vinegar based simple syrup that is used as a mixer in drinks, kind of like bitters. Except I love it so I put way more than a couple drops in mine. But we’ll get to that.
When my in-laws visited this summer we picked 30+ pounds of berries at the Blue House Farm (see last week's entry) and I didn’t have a bloomin’ clue what I was going to do with them all. In the end, some got turned into a pie, some are currently (hopefully, if I did it right) aging into cordial, and the rest, oh the rest was turned into this super-yummy concoction.
Via the wonderful world of Pinterest I found not only a recipe, but this wonderful guide and article on what shrubs are and how to make them. Michael Dietsch, the author, clearly knows what he’s talking about when it comes to cocktails and, being the clueless blonde that I am, appreciated his non-condescending approach.
Here’s the link:
According to Dietsch, there are two different ways to make a simple syrup: a hot process and a cold process. The advantage to the hot process is that it’s possible to can it in sterile jars and keep it for a while. The disadvantage is that in the cooking process, some of that wonderful, fresh, fruity flavor evaporates. It switches with the cold process. With the cold process you get a great, bright flavor, but it will only keep for a week or so. Sooooooo, in true Griffin fashion, I decided to combine the two to get as much flavor as possible but process it so I could store it for a while because I wanted to make a lot.
The best part about making a cold process shrub is that you don’t have to do much. Michael suggested a 1:1:1 ratio of sugar:berries:vinegar and it came out perfectly. The cold process looks like this:
- Step 1: Mash up berries and measure out with sugar into a bowl with one cup of sugar to every one cup of berries.
- Step 2: Put the bowl in the fridge and let it sit for a few days.
- Step 3: Strain out juice and mix with vinegar - 1 cup of vinegar to 1 cup of juice.
Steps 1 & 2: Measure out berries and sugar into a bowl and realize about day 3 in the fridge that it still looks like a big bowl of sugar and that maybe the berries should be mashed to help get the juices flowing. Soooooo I mashed up the berries and returned the bowl to the fridge for another 3-4 days. It looked much better. It should basically look like a big bowl of unattractive, thick, fruity, mush. It sure tastes good though. Seriously, try it!
Step 3: Put the bowl you’re going to strain the juice into in the sink because lets be real, everything in the kitchen, including yourself, is going to be purple at the end of this. I put a strainer inside the bowl and then lined the colander with a very thin cloth or dishtowel. I realized pretty soon the colander was pretty pointless unless you're using a thinner fabric like cheesecloth. If you’re making a lot like I did, do it in sections. Dump some of the berry-sugar-juice-concoction into the towel (over the bowl that is in the sink) and then squeeze out all the juice. Set the berries to the side for something else - topping pancakes, making jam, which is what I did, or anything else creative you can come up with.
Griffin’s added Step 4: Measure out juice into a pot and bring to a boil. As soon as it’s boiling, add the same amount of vinegar to the pot as there is juice. Don’t put your head over the pot because vinegar steam will make you cry. I do it EVERY SINGLE TIME.
Griffin’s added Step 5: Immediately pour into sterile canning jars and top with sterile canning lids. Don’t let it keep boiling or it will start to taste like cooked fruit instead of fresh fruit. Not that that’s a bad thing. I just love the fresh taste.
Once you put it in the jars and put the lids on top, set it to the side and don’t touch it and it should cool and seal on it’s own. Once they’re cooled, put one in the fridge so it’ll be cold and ready for a cocktail!
Shrubs can be made with all sorts of different berries, and maybe other kinds of fruit I imagine, and I’ve seen some that have wonderful herbal notes, which I think is a great touch. The options are pretty endless. I made a blackberry shrub and a blueberry shrub and the process was exactly the same for both.
Once made, I thought it tasted particularly good with gin but then again, I think everything is good with gin. A dropper may be the ideal way to measure it out but I went as far as to measure out 2 oz of gin to 2 oz of shrub and top it off with some lemon-lime seltzer and it was so refreshing with a slight zing from the vinegar. Play around with it and find what you like. I’ve concluded that no one is an expert on cocktails, except for maybe bartenders, and Michael Dietsch, so we’ll all just figure this out as we go.