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Posted by on September 1, 2012

Shrub: Noun

1- A drink made of sweetened fruit juice and liquor, typically rum or brandy.

2- A slightly acid cordial made from fruit juice and water.

ORIGIN early 18th cent.: from Arabic šurb, šarāb, from šariba ‘to drink’ ; compare with sherbet and syrup.

Now that we have the definition out of the way, I will explain. Lemons and other citrus fruits were not commonly available in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Oranges did not start showing up in Christmas stockings until later in the 1900’s and were so expensive they could only be a once a year treat.

So, what does all of this have to do with a vinegar drink? Think of it like lemonade, but without the lemons.

Soft fruits, such as raspberries, blackberries and peaches were commonly mixed with vinegars to flavour them. Adding a tablespoon or so to a glass of water is very refreshing and rather like the lemonade we drink today. Mind you, it can be a bit …tart.

With that in mind, sugar was often added to the flavoured vinegars and boiled until a syrup was formed. Leave out the vinegar and you have the base for a “soft dink” or soda. A great way to use up the less than perfect fruit, or in the case of peaches, using the peeling and pits.


Here is a recipe for a raspberry shrub that includes brandy ( instant cocktail mix) and yes the recipe is vague as are the instructions, but everybody knew how to make this.

3 quarts of raspberries

1 quart of cider vinegar

let the fruit soak in the vinegar in a crock covered for a few days. Strain through a jelly bag. For every pint of juice, add 1 pound of sugar. Bring to a boil until a syrup forms, skimming the foam. Let cool and add 1 pint of brandy. Pour into bottles and cork. Store in a cool place, will keep a good time. Add one tablespoon to a glass of water.

Wow! If you were a late 18th or early 19th century house wife, this would make perfect sense. But I’m not ( and I don’t know any) so, I’ve come up with an easier method.

Flavoured vinegars are quick and easy to make. Using any soft fruit you would like. For instance: blueberries, blackberries, golden or red raspberries, peaches, apricots or even figs. I’ve even heard of pineapple being used.

See my past post on peaches ( a true taste of summer) for the peach, or apricot  vinegar. As for the rest of the fruits, the measurements of 3 quarts fruit to 1 quart of vinegar ( cider or white) is about right. You may add the sugar to the fruit as in the above recipe, but I have a better idea. Make several different vinegars, and add simple syrup to each individual glass.

Sugar syrup.

Nothing is more simple than this: 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of water. place both ingredients into a pot, heat until the sugar dissolves. That’s it!

To mix the drink: To a tall glass of soda water, add 1 tablespoon of fruit vinegar and 1 tablespoon of simple syrup. Mix and enjoy.




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