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Fruit Shrub

Fruit Shrub

The shrub is the perfect sweet and tangy fruit-based syrup for all of your summer drinks and cocktails. Made with just 3 ingredients and endless variations, serve shrub syrup mixed with water, soda, or liquor for a refreshing drink!

Thank you to Williams-Sonoma Canada for sponsoring this post.  Visit them for all your needs in tabletop, kitchen, and entertaining beautifully at home! The Fiore coupe glasses, faceted carafe, brass mixology bar spoon, and Hawthorne strainer pictured in this post are from the Williams-Sonoma bar collection. If you love beautiful ice cubes in your drinks as much as I do, then be sure to check their amazing collection of ice cube trays there, too! All opinions herein are my own.

A glass with brass Hawthorne strainer straining a red drink (shrub syrup) into a stemmed coup glass filled with ice.

What is a Shrub?

A shrub is a concentrated tart syrup made from fruit, sugar, and vinegar. An old-fashioned drink base going back well before the advent of refrigeration, shrubs originated when fruit was preserved with vinegar and sugar. Similar to an acidulated cordial, the resulting sweet, tangy syrup can be used as a homemade drink mixer. For example, this strawberry shrub would be a delicious substitute for berry syrup and lemon juice in these berry lemon thyme spritzers!

Shrubs can be made with almost any fruit, berry, and even some types of vegetables. Also known as drinking vinegar, shrubs aren’t that different from lemonade. They use vinegar instead of citrus for that desirable thirst-quenching quality. They taste like the fruit they are made of, are sweet from the sugar, and tangy from the vinegar. Adding other botanicals like herbs or spices will change the flavor profile, making this non-alcoholic syrup as complex as you desire.

View looking down into a glass filled with crushed ice in a red drink (strawberry shrub) garnished with a strawberry and a sprig of mint.

How to Make Shrub Syrup

Find the instructions with the ingredients measurements in the recipe card below.

The shrub making process is simple and easy. Mix sliced, mashed, or grated fruit with sugar to coax out the flavorful juices, and then add vinegar for a complimentary tartness. Once strained, you’re left with a richly flavored tangy syrup which mellows over time.

A large glass jar filled with sliced strawberries, and sugar being spooned in over the berries.
Granulated sugar is neutral tasting so the fruit flavors can shine.
Red wine vinegar being poured into a crushed berries in a glass canister.
Red wine vinegar pairs well with strawberries, in both color and taste!
Fruit shrub being strained into a glass canister.
The strained fruit pulp is a lot like jam so don’t discard it!

The two most common ways to make shrub syrup are the hot process method (the quickest) and the cold process method:

Hot Process Method

The fastest way to make a shrub is by bringing the fruit and sugar to a simmer in a saucepan on the stove. Let the mixture come to room temperature, strain out the solids, and then add in the vinegar and any other flavor add-ins. Adding the vinegar once the mixture has cooled prevents the vinegar from evaporating, and allows you to remove the fruit solids for another use without the vinegar flavor. Place the mixture in a clean, lidded jar in the fridge until chilled. The longer it steeps, the smoother the flavors will be.

Cold Process Method

This method takes longer (several days to a week) as you’re not relying on any heat to help break down the fruit. Simply muddle or mash chopped or grated fruit with sugar in a clean jar. Put the lid on the jar and let it rest in the refrigerator for 2 days while the sugar pulls the juice out of the fruit. On day 3, stir in the vinegar and any other flavor add-ins. Let the mixture sit for another 3-4 days in the refrigerator, shaking or stirring it about once a day. Strain out the solids when you’re ready to use it.

Shrubs prepared with heat will have a slightly jammy undertone due to the caramelization of some of the sugars. Shrubs made via the cold method will be crisper but have slightly milder fruit flavors.

View looking down into a crystal glass filled with a red beverage and a square ice cube, on a grey counter in bright sunlight.

Ingredients & Substitutions

Many shrub recipes call for equal amounts of fruit to sugar to vinegar. In testing, we preferred a stronger fruit note in the shrub syrup, with balanced sweetness to vinegar tang. This strawberry shrub recipe calls for 2 parts fruit juice to 1 part sugar to 1 part vinegar.

A grey counter lined with a colander of fresh berries, a glass canister of sugar and a bottle of vinegar.
Fruit shrubs require only 3 ingredients but have endless flavor possibilities!

Fruit

I chose to use strawberries as they are in season, but you can use any kind of berries, fruit, and even some kinds of vegetables in shrub making! Here are some suggestions for produce you can use:

  • The fruit can be fresh or frozen, and doesn’t need to be perfect (just not moldy), but it should be ripe and juicy! Frozen fruit will break down easier, releasing more juice.
  • Berries like raspberries, blueberries (be sure to crush them), blackberries, or chopped cranberries.
  • Tropical fruits like pineapple, mango, passionfruit, watermelon, or pomegranate. Citrus fruits aren’t suited for shrubs because they are so acidic and, with the vinegar, may make the final drink too tart and mouth puckering.
  • Temperate fruits like apples, pears, peaches, apricots, plums, cherries, or figs.
  • Vegetables like rhubarb, cucumber, and tomatoes.
  • For hard fruits like apples, pears or rhubarb, grate them or finely dice them so you can fully extract the juices for the shrub syrup.

Sugar

Granulated sugar provides sweetness while being neutral tasting so the flavors of the fruit shine. Like many cocktail bases, the shrub serves as a flavored simple syrup employing juice instead of water. Other natural sweeteners can work but often add their own flavors which may or may not be desirable depending on the fruit and vinegar you pair it with. Turbinado, demerara, muscovado and brown sugars all provide caramel or light molasses flavors. Liquid sweeteners like maple syrup and agave have their own flavors to contribute and will dilute the fruit flavor in the shrub because of their volume.

Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar and champagne vinegar are common for shrub making. Their mild yet fruity flavors are pleasant and agreeable with other flavor pairings. Unseasoned wine vinegar is also a light tasting, smooth choice.

  • For a sweeter, richer shrub, give wine vinegar a try. Red wine vinegar has a beautiful red hue which intensifies the shrub color already pigmented by red fruits like strawberries, cherries, and raspberries.
  • Balsamic vinegar is delightful with red berries but don’t use it full strength. It is has a powerful taste and color, so use one cup minus a tablespoon (235 mL) of milder vinegar , replacing the 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of it with a tablespoon of the balsamic.
  • Our least favorite vinegar in shrubs is regular white (distilled) vinegar. It has a very sharp taste and doesn’t provide any interesting flavors like other types of vinegars do.

Optional Add-ins

Have fun experimenting with different shrub flavors by adding other ingredients to compliment the fruit and vinegar you chose:

  • ¼ cup edible flowers like rose petals, lavender, nasturtiums, or elderberry blossoms.
  • ¼ cup fresh herbs like basil, thyme, rosemary, mint, dill, or fennel.
  • 1 tablespoon aromatics like freshly grated or smashed turmeric, ginger, or lemongrass.
  • 1 tablespoon dried whole spices like peppercorns, cinnamon, cardamom, or star anise.

This is a great flavor pairing chart if you’re looking for ideas on which fruits go best with certain herbs, spices, and spirits.

Ginger beer being poured into a glass filled with ice and shrub syrup.
A simple zero-proof sparkling shrub – ginger beer poured over iced strawberry shrub syrup.
A stemmed glass filled with an iced red fruit drink.

Serving Suggestions

Shrubs can be enjoyed as a drink base for virgin drinks and cocktails, and as additions to salad dressings, sauces, and marinades. See the recipe card below for our favorite strawberry shrub drink recipe featuring ginger beer and rum! Below are some other ideas for using shrub:

  • Shrub Soda – Add 2 tablespoons (1 oz/30 mL) to a glass filled with ice. Top with ¾ cup (190 mL) of sparkling water, club soda, or other clear soda like ginger ale. Add more shrub syrup to taste.
  • Shrub Cocktail – Shrubs are great for highball cocktails. Replace the simple syrup in any cocktail recipe with the shrub syrup. Leave out any citrus juice at first, tasting as you slowly add it so the drink isn’t too sour. Garnish with fruit and fresh herbs or edible flowers, if desired.
  • Shrub Beer – Take beer to the next level by gently stirring in 3-4 tablespoons of (1.5-2 oz/45-60 mL) shrub.
  • Shrub Wine – Add 2 tablespoons (1 oz/30 mL) to a wine glass and top with sparkling wine, like prosecco.
  • Shrub Iced Tea – Add 2 tablespoons (1 oz/30 mL) to a glass of ice tea. Play around with different types of iced tea, like black, green or herbal.
  • Salad Dressing – For a quick and easy fruity salad dressing, combine 1 part shrub to 2-3 parts extra-virgin olive oil. Add salt, pepper, and fresh minced garlic to taste.
  • Sauces – Drizzle over yogurt, ice cream, rice or grain bowls, oatmeal, etc!
  • Marinade – Coat pressed tofu, seiten, or tempeh with the shrub, marinate and then grill.
Angled view into a highball glass filled with a red drink and a square ice cube.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a shrub the same as kombucha?

While drinks made from shrub can taste similar to kombucha, they are not the same drink. Kombucha is made by fermenting tea, and sometimes adding other flavors from fruits or spices. Modern shrubs are made by macerating fruit with sugar, vinegar, and other flavors, then straining the solids to produce a sweet and tangy syrup which is used a base for mocktails and cocktails.

Are shrub drinks healthy?

Shrubs contain natural fruit juice, sugar, and vinegar. As such, they naturally contain antioxidants and polyphenols from the fruit and vinegar, which you may not find in store bought sodas. However, as a sweet syrup with vinegar in it, they should be enjoyed for what they are and not as a “health elixir”. Check out this article on vinegar health claims.

What should I do with the leftover fruit strained from the shrub?

Don’t compost it! It will be sweet like jam and so use it as you would any preserve. Spread it on toast, serve over yogurt or ice cream, swirl through cake batter before baking, use it in thumb print cookies, add a bit to bottom of each glass of shrub drink…the possibilities are endless!

How long does shrub syrup keep for?

Strained shrubs can be kept anywhere from 3-6 months in the refrigerator thanks to their acidity and sugar content. If your shrub shows any signs of mold growth, it’s time to dispose of it.

Side view of a coup stem glass covered in condensation, filled with crushed ice and a red drink.

More Vegan Fruit Based Recipes

If you make this Strawberry Shrub, please give it a rating in the recipe card and leave a comment below! Follow along on Instagram where you can tag me in your creations using my recipes! You can also follow me on Pinterest for vegan recipe inspiration and on Facebook. Thank you for reading!

A stemmed coup glass filled with a red drink and ice, in front of a glass carafe filled with strawberry shrub.

Fruit Shrub

The shrub is the perfect sweet and tangy fruit-based syrup for all of your summer drinks and cocktails. Made with just 3 ingredients and endless variations, serve shrub syrup mixed with water, soda, or liquor for a refreshing drink!
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Drink Mix, Drinking Vinegar, Infused Vinegar, Shrub Syrup
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Chilling Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 12 (2 oz/60 ml servings)
Calories: 88kcal
Author: Bronwyn

Ingredients

For the Shrub Syrup:

  • 4 cups sliced strawberries, fresh or frozen (1.8 lbs) See Notes for substitutions
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar See Notes for substitutions
  • See Notes for Optional Flavor Add-Ins

For a Strawberry Shrub Cocktail:

  • ice
  • 2 oz shrub syrup, more to taste
  • oz white rum Or liquor of choice
  • 6 oz ginger beer Or sparkling water or ginger ale
  • strawberries and mint, for garnish if desired

Instructions

Hot Process Method

  • Place the strawberries (no need to defrost if frozen ) and sugar in a medium-sized saucepan over low heat. Bring the mixer to a simmer, stirring and mashing them frequently to prevent scorching and to release the juices.
  • Remove the sweetened berries from the heat, and allow them to cool to room temperature. If you'd like to use the berries for another use, stain the solids with a fine mesh strainer (pressing the berries to expel as much juice as possible) or with cheesecloth (squeezing the cloth gently with your hands to get all of the juice out.)
    Otherwise, add the vinegar (and any optional add-ins in the Notes below.) Place the mixture in a clean, lidded jar in the fridge until chilled, about 3 hours. Some sugar may sink to the bottom, just stir it back in. Once chilled, strain out all of the solids and keep refrigerated for about 3 months. See Notes below for serving suggestions.

Cold Process Method (Takes 1 Week)

  • If your strawberries are frozen, defrost them.
  • Muddle or mash the strawberries with the sugar in a 1.5 qt/L clean jar or non-reactive container. Put the lid on the jar and let it rest in the refrigerator for 2 days while the sugar pulls the juice out of the fruit.
  • On day 3, stir in the vinegar and any desired flavor add-ins in the Notes below. Let the mixture sit for another 3-4 days in the refrigerator, shaking or stirring it once a day. Some sugar may sink to the bottom, just stir it back in. Strain out the solids with a fine mesh strainer (pressing the berries to expel as much juice as possible) or with cheesecloth (squeezing the cloth gently with your hands to get all of the juice out.) Keep refrigerated for about 3 months. See Notes below for serving suggestions.

For a Strawberry Shrub Cocktail:

  • Fill a cocktail shaker or glass jar with ice. Pour in the shrub and rum. Shake to combine. Strain the liquid into a glass half filled with ice. Top off with the ginger beer. Garnish with fresh berries and mint if desired. See Notes below for other serving suggestions.

Nutrition Info:

Calories: 88kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 0.3g | Fat: 0.2g | Saturated Fat: 0.01g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.02g | Sodium: 2mg | Potassium: 86mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 20g | Vitamin A: 6IU | Vitamin C: 30mg | Calcium: 10mg | Iron: 0.3mg

Notes:

Substitutions for Strawberries:

I chose to use strawberries as they are in season, but you can use any kind of berries, fruit, and even some kinds of vegetables!
  • The fruit/berries can be fresh or frozen, and don’t need to be perfect (just not moldy), but they should be ripe and juicy! Frozen fruit will break down easier, releasing more juice.
  • Berries like raspberries, blueberries (be sure to crush them), blackberries, or chopped cranberries.
  • Tropical fruits like pineapple, mango, passionfruit, watermelon, or pomegranate. Citrus fruits aren’t suited for shrubs because they are so acidic and, with the vinegar, may make the final drink too tart and mouth puckering.
  • Temperate fruits like apples, pears, peaches, apricots, plums, cherries, or figs.
  • Vegetables like rhubarb, cucumber, and tomatoes.
  • For hard fruits like apples, pears or rhubarb, grate them or finely dice them so you can fully extract the juices for the shrub syrup.

Vinegar Options:

  • Red wine vinegar has a beautiful red hue which intensifies the shrub color already pigmented by red fruits like strawberries, cherries, and raspberries. It creates a sweeter, richer shrub.
  • Balsamic vinegar is delightful with red berries but because it is has such a powerful taste and color, use a milder vinegar and start by replacing only 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of it with a tablespoon of the balsamic.
  • Apple cider vinegar and champagne vinegar are common for shrub making. Their mild yet fruity flavors are pleasant and agreeable with other flavor pairings. Unseasoned wine vinegar is also a light tasting, smooth choice.
  • Our least favorite vinegar in shrubs is regular white (distilled) vinegar. It has a very sharp taste and doesn’t provide any interesting flavors like other types of vinegars do.

Optional Add-Ins: 

Have fun experimenting with different shrub flavors by adding other ingredients to compliment the fruit and vinegar you chose:
  • ¼ cup edible flowers like rose petals, lavender, nasturtiums, or elderberry blossoms.
  • ¼ cup fresh herbs like basil, thyme, rosemary, mint, dill, or fennel.
  • 1 tablespoon aromatics like freshly grated or smashed turmeric, ginger, or lemongrass.
  • 1 tablespoon dried whole spices like peppercorns, cinnamon, cardamom, or star anise.

Serving Suggestions:

  • Shrub Soda – Add 2 tablespoons (1 oz/30 mL) to a glass filled with ice. Top with ¾ cup (190 mL) of sparkling water, club soda, or other clear soda like ginger ale. Add more shrub syrup to taste.
  • Shrub Cocktail – Shrubs are great for highball cocktails. Replace the simple syrup in any cocktail recipe with the shrub syrup. Leave out citrus juice at first, tasting as you slowly add it so the drink isn’t too sour. Garnish with fruit and fresh herbs or edible flowers if desired.
  • Shrub Beer – Take beer to the next level by gently stirring in 3-4 tablespoons of (1.5-2 oz/45-60 mL) shrub.
  • Shrub Wine – Add 2 tablespoons (1 oz/30 mL) to a wine glass and top with sparkling wine, like prosecco.
  • Shrub Iced Tea – Add 2 tablespoons (1 oz/30 mL) to a glass of ice tea. Play around with different types of iced tea, like black, green or herbal.
  • Salad Dressing – For a quick and easy fruity salad dressing, combine 1 part shrub to 2-3 parts extra-virgin olive oil. Add salt, pepper, and fresh minced garlic to taste.
  • Sauces – Drizzle over yogurt, ice cream, rice or grain bowls, oatmeal, etc!
  • Marinade – Coat pressed tofu, seiten, or tempeh with the shrub, marinate and then grill. 
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Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be considered an estimate rather than a guarantee. Crumbs & Caramel makes no guarantees as to the accuracy of this information.

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