What is a "Shrub?"
Shrub, also known as drinking vinegar, is an infusion of fruit or herbs into a mixture of vinegar and sugar. This creates a sweet and sour flavor bomb, and this concentrate is used to dilute into water or cocktails to add a nice pop. The standard formula is to use equal parts fruit, sugar and vinegar, but I typically cut the sugar in half to make it less sweet and syrupy, with more emphasis on the tart flavor.
Why make or even drink shrubs?
Because it is a bit sweet, a shrub with some sparkling water is a good soda substitute or way to make flavorful cocktails or "mocktails" without so much sugar. I also love them as a way to use fruits, herbs and even veggies from my garden in a different way, and a new way to eat seasonally.
On the health side, shrubs are supportive of digestion as vinegar, especially raw vinegar, confers health benefits on its own. High-quality, raw vinegar is a source of organic acids, enzymes, and post-biotics, which are health-promoting metabolites created during the fermentation process. Vinegar itself is not necessarily probiotic, despite being a fermented food, because of its extremely high acidity. However, it is still great for digestion and more.
If you are interested in fermenting your own vinegar to use in your homemade shrub (especially during apple season right now!), check out the book Homebrewed Vinegars by Kirsten Shockey, a fermentation queen.
You can make shrubs with pretty much any fruit or herb you like, such as apple, rhubarb, berries, or basil. I like this celery shrub as it tends more savory, where most shrubs are quite sweet when made with fruit. Plus, it adds some minerals and phytochemicals to your beverage as well! Certainly, this is still a bit sweet due to the use of sugar, but less so, plus it has an herby quality as well that I love.
Celery Lime Shrub
Makes 2 cups
2 cups sliced celery (can include leaves)
1 cup unrefined cane sugar
1 cup raw apple cider vinegar
1 cup white wine vinegar
Zest and juice of 1 lime
Variation: Celery-Apple Shrub
For a milder, sweeter shrub, use 1 cup diced green apple for 1 of the cups of celery, keeping the other ingredients the same.
1. Chop the celery and place in a 1 quart glass jar.
2. Add the lime and sugar and stir to coat the celery.
3. Pour the vinegars over the celery and seal with a plastic lid.
4. Shake vigorously to dissolve the sugar into the vinegar and letting the celery begin to macerate.
5. Let sit for 5-7 days at room temperature to infuse the vinegar with the celery.
6. Strain out the solids and return the liquid to your jar. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to use; this will keep for about 1 year in the fridge.
What Can You do with Your Shrub?
Now that you have this super tasty concoction, what can you do with it? You can add 1-2 ounces to still or sparkling water for a flavor boost to plain water, or add to a cocktail to create something unique and delicious. Below are some recipes I've brewed up using my Celery Shrub. Celery is naturally quite salty, so a pinch of salt in these recipes really brings that quality out...feel free to do a salted rim instead if you're feeling fancy!
Super Celery Mocktail
12-16 oz. lime or lemon sparkling water (we use Sparkle which is local to here, but feel free to use Spindrift, Topo Chico, etc.)
2 Tbs celery lime shrub
Squeeze of lime juice
Sprig of fresh mint (I will sometimes stick the leafy top of a celery stalk in there, too!)
Pinch sea salt
Fill a tumbler with ice to your liking. Add the shrub, lime juice, and salt. Stir gently. Pour the cold sparkling water over the top and garnish with a sprig of mint or other herb such as basil.
Herbal Celery Cocktail
2 oz herbaceous gin (We often use Prairie organic gin, but use your favorite here)
1-2 oz celery shrub
4-6 ounces sparkling water, plain or flavored
2-3 dashes bitters
In the bottom of a cocktail glass, muddle a small handful of celery leaves with the pinch of salt. Add ice to the glass, then pour in the gin, shrub and sparkling water. Add a few dashes of bitters and serve with a lime wedge.
Cheers to your health!
Brine & Broth
I am a gut health-focused nutritionist and online health coach based in Southwest Wisconsin. My recipes and philosophies center around traditional, nutrient-dense foods that support robust gut health.