Shrub a Dub Dub: Fruit Shrubs

IMG_8849The conversation on the subject of shrubs started with gardening expert and friend Ron Wilson. We were chatting about a class at Turner Farms that we were to teach. Along with food, I planned on making shrubs. “What’s a shrub?” He asked. I told him shrubs are refreshing colonial health drinks made with fruit, vinegar and sugar. I don’t think that convinced him. Then Ron tasted the shrubs during class. (Chef Stephanie Michalak had melon shrub already made). Fizzy, fruity and just sweet enough, Ron is now all in. He even wants to have a “shrub” party! I told him before that happens, he has to learn to make shrubs. Maybe I’ve peaked your interest too. So for Ron, and you, here’s an easy recipe for making shrubs.

First, the history.

The word shrub comes from the Arabic sharbah, meaning drink. Drinks made with vinegars date back to ancient times.

During the long voyage to America, shrubs were included. Why? The vitamin C content from the fruit prevented scurvy and the vinegar, a fermented liquid, was good for the digestive system. 

When prohibition was at its height, shrubs became popular substitutes for 

alcoholic beverages.

With the focus today on healthy drinks, shrubs are becoming mainstream. 

Shrub basics

Shrubs are just sweetened fruit flavored vinegars. The acid in vinegar preserves the drink, so shrubs can be kept for months refrigerated. 

Fruit: Most fruits work well, the riper, the better. Fruit doesn’t have to be perfect. Remove any bad spots.

Start with a simple one fruit shrub, then experiment with more fruits, spices, etc.

Peel, chop, or crush fruit a bit to hasten infusion. 

I’ve made blueberry and strawberry shrubs. Melon, peach, pineapple, citrus and apple are excellent – you get the picture!

Vinegar: Distilled white for clear, sharp flavor or apple cider vinegar for mellow flavor. Rice vinegar works too.  How about a splash of balsamic added? 

Sugar: I use granulated, but raw, brown or honey works.

Master fruit shrub recipe


Recipe can be doubled, tripled, etc.

2 heaping cups fruit, peeled, chopped or crushed a bit if necessary

2 cups vinegar

1 to 2 cups sugar or to taste 


Sterilize glass jar.

Heat vinegar in pan to a simmer. You’ll see little bubbles around the edges. Don’t boil. 

Pour vinegar over fruit in jar, leaving a bit of space. Put lid on.

Cool, then place in cool, dark place or refrigerator. I put mine in the refrigerator. Let infuse at least 2 days or as long as you want (a month or more is OK) until desired flavor is reached.Strain fruit for a sparkling looking shrub syrup, or leave in and puree for a thicker syrup. 

Place in pan, add sugar and bring just to a boil. Cool and pour into sterilized container and cap.

Store in refrigerator up to 6 months or more. If shrub bubbles, get slimy, etc. toss it. That rarely happens.

Serve: Mix a few tablespoons syrup into glass of chilled sparkling or regular water. Taste and add more, if desired. 

Other ways to use shrubs: Cocktail mixers, salad dressings, over ice cream, etc


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