This week’s Drink of the Week is Nick’s Summer Shrub. Named after our bartender who created this tasty beverage, this cocktail combines our Gin #6 with a house made strawberry-balsamic shrub which is topped with club soda. The result is a deliciously sweet yet surprisingly tangy strawberry cocktail.
In recent years, shrubs have enjoyed a renaissance among trendy bartenders as one of the latest classic-made-cool-again cocktails. For our purposes, it is best to think of a shrub as a fruit syrup with vinegar added to it. The idea here is that when you combine fresh fruit with sugar, the sugar will macerate the fruit and create a sweet fruit syrup. Going one step further and adding vinegar to your fruit syrup will help preserve the fruit syrup as well as add a tangy acidic element to the fruit syrup. Shrubs were popular in Colonial America, as they provided a safe way for people to enjoy fresh fruit flavors well beyond their harvest.
One of the benefits to using a shrub behind the bar is that on their own, shrubs provide two essential components of a cocktail in the form of acidity (from the vinegar) and sweetness (from fruit/sugar combination). As a result, all your bartender needs to do to create a delicious cocktail is mix the shrub with a spirit of their choice and top with a splash of club soda. Furthermore, with the vinegar acting as a natural preservative, these concoctions can last for months or longer behind a bar without the fear of spoilage. Versatile, convenient, and durable, shrubs have a well deserved spot behind any bar, whether it’s behind our bar at North Shore Distillery or behind your bar at home.
Nick’s Summer Shrub
1¼ oz Distiller’s Gin No. 6
1¼ oz Strawberry Balsamic Shrub
In a Collins glass, add gin and shrub, then add ice and top with club soda. Stir to combine and garnish with a lemon twist.
The basic formula for making a shrub is simple enough; combine 1 part sugar with 1 part fruit, let the sugar dissolve, then add 1 part vinegar, and you have created a shrub. How you combine those ingredients can vary however, as there are 2 popular methods used to create a shrub. They are known as the cold-processed method and heat- processed method. After doing some research and reading about how other people have made shrubs, I concluded that the cold processed method would preserve the strawberry flavor better than the heat processed method and ultimately provide a more true strawberry flavor. To make a cold processed shrub, you combine your fruit and sugar, and let the combination sit covered in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours until the sugar has completely dissolved in the fruit juice – before adding vinegar. If you decide to make a shrub at home, I would recommend using the cold process method, although it does require more time and patience. If you are looking to make a shrub quickly, the heat processed method to making a shrub is totally acceptable.
At this point, I was ready to combine my ingredients. I had already decided that I was going to use strawberries, as they were particularly tasty and in season at this point, so I hulled and quartered my strawberries and combined them with some plain white sugar. Although most shrub recipes call for a 1:1:1 ratio, I decided to use more strawberries than the recipe called for to bump up the strawberry flavor. Ultimately it was closer to a 1.25:1:1 ratio. It wasn’t long before I noticed some juice collecting in the bottom of the container, a sign that the process was working. From this point, it was important to shake the mixture at least once a day, as this helped dissolve the sugar into the juice that was pulled from the strawberries.
After about 2 full days in the refrigerator, the sugar was dissolved and the mixture was ready to be mixed with vinegar. Now there are a lot of different vinegars to choose from, and many recipes will call for an apple cider vinegar. Not being sure which vinegar to use, I made a couple of different test batches using apple cider vinegar and white wine vinegar. The apple cider vinegar was tart and slightly fruity which I felt was competing with the fresh strawberry flavor; whereas the white wine vinegar was a bit more mellow which allowed the bright strawberry flavor to shine. In addition to experimenting with these two vinegars, I also experimented with adding balsamic vinegar to my shrub, which added a delicious fruity element that I really enjoyed. After I settled on white wine vinegar with a dash of balsamic, the shrub was ready to be strained and served!
To be quite honest, this was my first attempt at making a shrub and I was slightly intimidated to get started. But after having done it, I can say that truly anyone can do it, and I would encourage anyone reading to follow along and make a shrub at home! If you do, please stop by the distillery and tell us about what shrubs you have made or enjoyed at home.