Earlier this summer I decided to experiment with another homemade soda. Every now and then I find an interesting shrub on a mocktail menu, so when I had some leftover fresh fruit I figured it was worth a shot.
A shrub is a drink made with a vinegar and fruit based syrup. That might not sound very appealing, but the fresh fruit and sugar (and time) mellow that bite into something tangy and interesting. Here’s what I tried, and what I learned.
The general strategy for making your own shrub syrup is to take one part fresh fruit and one part sugar and let them combine for 12-24 hours. The sugar pulls the juice out of the fruit which concentrates the flavor. Once that’s done you strain out the fruit solids and add another equal part of vinegar (about) to the sugar and juice. It’s okay if there’s still quite a bit of undissolved sugar. It’ll most likely incorporate into the solution within a few days. I tend to add less vinegar than I think I need and then increase if the sugar still hasn’t dissolved. As far as the vinegar goes, apple cider is probably a good choice, but you can use others.
My first attempt used watermelon and champagne vinegar. It was a failure. Watermelon just wasn’t a strong enough flavor. Maybe if I had boiled it down and reduced it some more it would have been better, but then I think the watermelon flavor would have been lost. Oh well. No matter what I did I couldn’t overcome the overwhelming vinegar flavor. Vinegar champagne is also expensive, so this attempt was a bit demoralizing.
Attempt two used some homegrown strawberries. They were overripe, so a perfect candidate for a shrub. I used the champagne vinegar again and let it mature in a mason jar for about two weeks. The strawberry flavor was strong enough to stand up to the bold champagne vinegar, and it was sweet enough to stay light on the palate. However, the vinegar is strong enough that it’s always going to be a sipping drink. I found that adding about 2 tablespoons of syrup to 6 ounces of low-sugar ginger ale was just about right.
Attempt three used some overripe peaches and apple cider vinegar. The apple cider vinegar is significantly more mild than the champagne vinegar. It’s also a lot cheaper. For the first week or so the peach flavor was pretty strong. After that it dissipated a bit but was still enjoyable. Head to head I think I like the strawberry champagne more than the peach apple cider, but they’re both bright and refreshing. The tartness from the vinegar would pair well with a lot of meals and could even help cleanse your palate between courses. If I was serving this to others and wanted to make an impression I’d probably add a fresh herb like mint or lemon verbena. I used a low-sugar ginger ale from Caldera Brewing, but you could also use club soda. A thin slice of fresh lemon wouldn’t hurt either.
I’m not going to rate these because they’re my own creation. It wouldn’t be fair. However, if you want to read more about shrubs that I’ve made or reviewed, go ahead and click here.