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Lately it seems like I keep hearing about shrubs. I'm not talking about the bushes that line your front yard—this is way better. The shrub that I'm referencing is a vinegary syrup used as a way preserve fruit made with three ingredients: fruit, sugar, and vinegar. They can be combined with seltzer to make a thirst-quenching, booze-free beverage or used as an flavor booster in a cocktail. Either way, they add a thrust of flavor unlike anything I've ever imbibed and have quickly become my go-to summer beverage.
There are two methods of making a shrub. Michael Dietsch wrote a great post about the history of shrubs and both methods, but here's a quick overview. The first method is made on the stove top and is very similar to making a simple syrup, only you add vinegar at the end.
The second method, known as the cold process, requires no cooking. The fruit is simply left to absorb the sugar in the refrigerator, it's then strained to get all the sugar infused fruit juices, then vinegar is added. Whichever method you use, your finished shrub gets stored in the refrigerator. The consensus is that the cold process has a much brighter, intense flavor. After trying both methods myself, I totally agree. Plus, who can argue with not having to turn to stovetop on when the temperatures are in the 90s?
Initially the thought of drinking vinegar sounded about as desirable as staring at those bushes that line the front yard, but after making my first cherry shrub, I'm addicted. During these hot days, the tart shrub mixed with seltzer water is the perfect invigorating summer sip. For a light cocktail, I like to combine the shrub with a little Lillet Blanc, lime juice, and seltzer. The vinegar adds sharp intensity to the flavor of the fruit, allowing the combination to come alive in your mouth, hitting both sweet and tart notes. Cherry is just the first of many shrubs I'll be making this summer, and I have a feeling once you try it you'll feel the same.
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About the Author: Kelly Carámbula is the founder, designer, and editor of Remedy Quarterly, a magazine about food memories and the recipes that inspired them based in Brooklyn. She shares food and cocktail recipes on her blog, The Best Remedy.