Shrubs as they are known today are said to have originated in 17th century England, with the name generally accepted to derive from Arabic. They have been popping up in the food and beverage world for the last few years, and I still find them enjoyable to make and to drink. Shrubs seem to suit those with a preference for acidic flavors, and those who get pleasure out of not having to waste once-perfect and noble ingredients.
There appear to be two basic methods of making shrubs: macerating fruit in sugar for a few days, and acidifying the strained liquid with vinegar, or steeping fruit in vinegar before straining out the solids and sweetening it with sugar. I prefer the latter method as it is easier to balance the overall flavor.
Originally my interest in making drinking vinegars was for use in cocktails, but I find it difficult to blend the vinegar flavor with liquors. These days I simply make them to enjoy a little homemade soda when thirst strikes, and I don’t want to get wasted mid-day.
I have gotten freaky and made shrubs out of vegetables, but likely, there are few people on the earth who would like to imbibe sweetened kale-flavored vinegar, unless expressly for the purpose of food preservation, or perhaps a desperate attempt to be different. I did once make a cucumber and basil shrub, which was actually well-received in a cocktail of gin and tonic water.
1 part fruit, pitted if necessary and cut into medium pieces
1 part vinegar, or to cover
1-4 tablespoons fresh herbs, if using (use half the amount for dried herbs)
1 part sugar (or less if you like)
Combine the fruit, vinegar, and herbs in a non-reactive glass jar, and gently press them with a muddler or similar tool. Cover the jar, and shake well. Remove the lid, and fasten a few layers of cheesecloth or paper towel over the mouth of the jar. Label and date the jar, and leave the mixture to infuse for 7 days. Each day, place the lid back on and shake well, then return the cloth cover. After 7 days, strain out and discard the solids and reserve the liquid. Dissolve the sugar into the vinegar, and leave the shrub in the fridge for another 7 days, again shaking daily, giving time for the acidity to mellow and the flavors to marry.
1-2 oz. shrub
8 oz. sparkling water
Combine the shrub and the sparkling water in a festive or ridiculous glass, and garnish with something pretty, like a sprig of verbena or a basil flower. Adjust the ratio of water to shrub according to your preference.
Read a wee synopsis of shrubs here at The Savory: http://www.thesavory.com/drink/shrubs-summer-cocktail-must.html
Get schooled by Mary Karlin, the author of very sound information on shrubs: http://www.masteringfermentation.com/press/SunsetMagFeb2014_Shrubs.pdf