I hope that everyone had a delightful Fourth of July weekend! I am still in recovery mode following a whirlwind couple of days in New York City, and coming home to old friends, new friends, boat rides and barbecues. We have had a ridiculous amount of rain in Upstate NY this year and given the relatively dry weekend we had, coupled with all of the festivities, it actually felt like Summer for the first time!
A portion of the last few days for me, was also spent making shrubs. I feel as if shrubs had a “moment” on the cocktail scene last Fall, but as far as I am concerned, I hope they stick around – in both cocktails and mocktails – for good. If you are new to the world of shrubs, the term refers to a sweetened vinegar-based syrup, commonly made with fresh fruit juice and or herbs/spices – sometimes called “drinking vinegar”. The process for making them dates back to the colonial era, but shrubs have experienced a resurgence as of late, with versions popping up on drink menus, and being sold in bottled varieties at gourmet markets, alike. While I have tried a few brands that I love and would definitely purchase again, shrubs are incredibly easy to make at home, so why not try that too? They also provide a means to use any wilting, past-its-prime, fruit you have on hand (Me, always, after a trip to the Farmers’ Market!).
You can really go anywhere you like with this so long as you keep the essential ingredients (sugar, vinegar, fruit) in mind. In terms of a ratio, a good place to start is 1:1:1, but I prefer my shrubs more tart than sweet, so you’ll see that I used less sugar, more vinegar, and a lot of fruit (What you decide to use will invariably depend on how sweet your fruit is to begin with.). I added pink peppercorns here for some spice, but those are not necessary either – nice, but again, certainly not necessary. I have been going wild testing out new combinations, pairing them with club soda, and mixing them into fancier libations, as well. I totally love this concept, and I hope you do too!
- 2 cups strawberries, cleaned, hulled and quartered (or halved, depending on size)
- ¼ cup packed fresh basil leaves
- Pinch pink peppercorns
- ½ cup white sugar
- 1 cup white vinegar + 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- Place the strawberries, basil, peppercorns and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days. Your fruit will be surrounded by juice (as shown above). The longer you leave it in the refrigerator for, the more juice it will produce!
- Strain the syrup from the solids, pressing gently on the strawberries to extract any remaining juice.
- Add the vinegar to the syrup, and whisk until the sugar has dissolved.
- Place the mixture in a clean glass container or jar. Seal and place in the refrigerator.
- The shrubs will keep in your refrigerator for a long time, but you will notice that the longer they sit, the more that the flavors will mellow.
- To serve: Sip plain or over ice, topped with club soda (as seen here), or mixed with your favorite spirit!