Shrubs have been the hot thing in cocktails (and non-alchoholic drinks) for a little bit now. These tangy, tart syrups are usually made with fruit, a little sugar, and something tart—usually vinegar. Though shrubs are super-trendy now, they date back to colonial America; before there was refrigeration, vinegar was a handy tool for preserving fruit. (And the result, mixed with cool water, was delicious even way back then.)
As local fruit slowly starts showing up in farmers' markets, you'll probably want to know how to make your own shrubs: Michael Dietsch wrote a useful guide here to the basics, plus a further exploration of possible ways to branch out, including exploring the use of different vinegars, sugars, and herbs.
But if you want to taste shrubs, you don't have to make your own. It's pretty rare that we'd eagerly recommend any bottled cocktail mixer, but we recently sampled a line of shrub syrups from Shrub & Co and we're really big fans. The shrubs are currently produced in Atlanta, Georgia, but the company plans to open a production kitchen in Berkeley soon. The team juices fresh organic fruit to use in the shrubs along with a number of different vinegars. They recommend storing the bottles in the fridge after opening.
Their Spicy Ginger shrub has a real fresh ginger bite; there's some real heat there and tons of ginger flavor. This is no wimpy over-sweetened liquid candy. Though you'll sniff a touch of vinegar if you stick your nose in the glass, it mostly offers a focused, fresh ginger flavor, with a hint of tart citric tang but nothing aggressively vinegary. If you're a fan of spicy ginger beers, try it straight with seltzer, or go for a vibrant Moscow Mule (just add vodka, seltzer, and a big of fresh lime juice.) We love ginger drinks, so this bottle's disappearing pretty fast.
The Grapefruit Shrub has a slightly stronger vinegar scent, but the flavor is all succulent pink grapefruit juice, rounded slightly with sweetness. There's tang here too, and a little bitterness to wipe the palate; the succession of flavors makes it plenty interesting to drink alone with seltzer (though we highly recommend adding it to sparkling wine at brunch.)
The Tart Apple Shrub is juicy and refreshing, a little sweet and a little sour. It's amazing with rich aged rum and a squeeze of lime (and we'd bet it's delicious with bourbon and lemon, too.) According their website, a Blood Orange Cardamom shrub is on its way soon...we're excited to check that out.
Have you tried your hand at making shrubs? Any favorite ways to drink them?
Samples provided for review consideration.