Shrubs have been having a revival recently in bars and home kitchens, though these “drinking vinegars” date back to 17th century England and colonial America. Shrubs only have a few components, but the possible combinations are wide-ranging. To make your own shrub, simply combine a seasonal fruit, a vinegar, a sweetener, and complimentary spices. Let infuse over the course of a few days, then strain and add the tangy syrup to cocktails, or to sparkling water for a homemade soda. Berries and stone fruits are great options here, and using apple cider or champagne vinegar will deliver a smooth and bright flavor. Consider using vanilla bean, citrus peel, ginger and peppercorns for the aromatics.
This healthy and delicious version uses raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar, Grade A maple syrup, and a complex mix of warm spices including cardamom, cinnamon and star anise. Add an ounce to rye or bourbon for a tart spin on an old-fashioned.
Spiced Cherry Maple Shrub
Makes 1 1/2 cups
2 cups washed, stemmed sweet bing cherries
1/2 cup Grade A pure amber maple syrup
1/2 cup Bragg’s raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
1 tsp whole cloves
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
5 green cardamom pods
pinch of dried licorice root
1. Sterilize a quart-sized mason jar, or just wash thoroughly in hot soapy water. Let air dry.
2. Place the cherries in the jar (pits and all), and use a muddler to mash up the cherries and release some juices. Add the vinegar, maple syrup, and spices. Seal and shake a few times to combine. Let sit at room temperature for 24 to 48 hours.
3. After 2 days, strain the shrub though a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth into an airtight jar or bottle. Refrigerate. Use within 1 month.