Some of my favorite flavors from summer are strawberry and basil, and these come together beautifully in this Strawberry-Basil Shrub. A shrub is a lightly fermented syrup that is commonly used in cocktails as a mixer. Also known as a "drinking vinegar," shrub is made my making a fruit-and-sugar syrup (some do this by cooking it down, but I make mine with a short fermentation) added to vinegar to make a sweet and tart elixir full of flavor. Shrubs are to be used as a concentrate rather than to be sipped on their own, which is why they are perfect for cocktails to add a pop of acidity and sweetness. For the non-drinkers out there, shrubs also go great splashed into sparkling water or added into a mocktail recipe.
Shrubs can be made with any fruit, and I have made a tasty Rhubarb Shrub in the past that is a favorite around here, but you could use the same method with whatever fruit you have on hand. I love to make shrubs when I have some fruit that needs to be used up and is past its prime, but is still perfectly find to use. Other combinations I have made are pineapple-thyme, cranberry-ginger, raspberry, and apple spice. Since it summer is in full swing, I recommend blending herbs and berries to make the most refreshing mixer the season has to offer! Our garden gave us some beautiful strawberries and lots of fragrant basil, so this shrub was a no-brainer.
Makes 2-3 cups
1 quart strawberries, sliced (about 4 cups)
2 cups unrefined cane sugar
1 cup white wine vinegar (approximate)
1 cup red wine vinegar (approximate)
1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped and packed
1. Combine sliced strawberries and sugar in a mixing bowl. Stir well to coat the strawberries with the sugar. Cover the bowl with a cloth to allow air flow.
2. Let this mixture sit at room temperature for 3-5 days, stirring once or twice a day to dissolve the sugar and keep the berries submerged in liquid. Check for mold when you stir as well.
3. The fruit mixture will be ready once it shows early signs of fermentation. It should begin to bubble and start to have a lightly fermented, acidic smell. Be sure to not let this over-ferment, or it can become quite boozy and lose a lot of the flavor you want in your shrub. The fermentation may only take a couple of days if your kitchen is quite warm, or a few extra if you keep it cooler.
4. Strain the macerated and fermented strawberries through a fine mesh strainer, pressing to get out as much juice as possible. Measure this liquid, then transfer it to a glass storage jar.
5. Add the basil to the strawberry juice. Add the vinegar in the amount equal to the volume of the strained juice, half white and half red wine vinegar. You should get about 2 cups of juice from this, so you would then add 2 cups of vinegar total, with 1 cup each of the two types of vinegar.
6. Stir the mixture well and let sit, covered with a lid, at room temperature 2-3 more days to infuse with the basil. Strain and transfer to a glass storage jar. Refrigerate before serving.
7. This will keep for about 6 months in the fridge. Serve 1-2 ounces of shrub in with your favorite cocktails, mocktails, sparkling water or even iced tea.
Sweet Summertime Strawberry-Basil Cocktail
2 Tbs fresh basil
2 ounces Strawberry Basil Shrub
4 ounces (2 shots) tequila
12 ounces sparkling water (can be mineral water or your favorite fizzy water brand...we use locally-produced Sparkle in the lemon or lime flavor but use your favorite flavored or plain mineral water)
6-8 drops Bitters
Pinch of salt (I like to use a nice flaky sea salt here)
Divide the fresh basil between the two cocktail glasses. Crush lightly with a muddler or wooden spoon to release its flavorful volatile oils. Add ice cubes to the glasses.
Combine the shrub, tequila, sparkling water and bitters in a pitcher or mason jar and stir well.
Pour the cocktails into the glasses over the ice, dividing evenly.
Add a squeeze of fresh lemon, a pinch of chunky sea salt, and serve.
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.