It’s the New Year, new resolutions have been made, and many of us are taking a sober look at the world. Or, at the very least, at our glasses. Whether you’re going dry for January or just want something refreshing yet alcohol-free, Beverage Director Amanda Reed has a decadent solution: a shrub drink.
A shrub is a drinking vinegar comprised of fruit syrup and vinegar. In Colonial times, alcohol was added to shrubs to create a cocktail. Today, these fruit-and-vinegar concoctions often stand alone, no booze needed. Shrubs are sophisticated drinking vinegars that look pretty, taste great, and can be found on menus the world over. In addition to being showy and fun, shrub drinks fill a hole left by most mocktails: they offer complexity.
“Syrups on their own can be one-noted and overly sweet when alcohol isn’t involved,” says Reed. “Shrubs have that sour note from the vinegar that makes for nice contrast. They’re more fun, more interesting. More of a conversation.”
Reed starts with a shrub syrup, made by macerating fruit and sugar and typically letting it stand in the refrigerator for a day. She then adds vinegar, in equal amounts to the sugar in the syrup, and lets it rest for another day. The vinegar can also be added during step one in the process.
Shrubs don’t demand exotic or expensive vinegars, either. “I’ve had the most luck with apple cider vinegar and cheap white balsamic,” says Reed, “but you can use almost any vinegar.” Traditional balsamic and strawberries make for a great pairing, for example.
To make the most of dry January, Reed provided us with a recipe for an apple shrub. For those those who are imbibing, she also offers a favorite shrub-plus-alcohol concoction.
3 Mixed Apples (Reed likes to use 1 Granny Smith Apple, 1 Golden Delicious Apple, 1 Fuji Apple)
8 oz Sugar
8 oz Apple Cider Vinegar
Chop apples into cubes. Discard stem, seeds, and core. Add sugar and macerate. Add vinegar. Refrigerate mixture for 48 hours. Strain into a Collins glass, top with soda, and garnish.
Blame it on Eve
1 1/2 oz Big Gin Barrel-Aged
1/2 oz Apple Shrub
1/2 oz Becherovka
1/2 oz Fino Sherry
Garnish: Apple Slice
Combine all ingredients. Stir. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish.