Rhubarb shrub is the secret weapon to killer summer cocktails. A century old recipe cocktail bars love for pricey drinks, its so easy to make at home.
This week I used rhubarb to make two kinds of drinks. I started off with a rhubarb syrup to make a German rhubarb soda called rhabarberschorle.
But then I wondered if I could make a rhubarb shrub.
To be honest, I knew nothing about how to make a shrub other than that I’ve paid $20 for cocktails that used them.
Could it really be that difficult?
It turns out it’s not difficult at all and I actually preferred the flavour of the rhubarb shrub over the rhubarb syrup.
The rhubarb flavour was stronger, less sweet and almost tangy.
When I mixed some with sparkling water for my mother she said she had never tasted anything like it.
And that’s probably the best way to describe it. There’s nothing you’ve ever tasted like this.
What is a Shrub Drink?
A shrub is a syrup that is made by macerating fruit in sugar for a few days then mixing the liquid with vinegar.
They aren’t some new confounded hipster drink. Instead they are actually from 100 years ago and were used to preserve fruit.
Shrubs were once called drinkable vinegars, which doesn’t sound appetizing at all.
But if you love to make cocktails, you know that you should save the liquid from pickled fruits and vegetables.
So instead of waiting until the pickled rhubarb jar is empty, you can just make a shrub that lasts in your fridge.
So instead of waiting until the rhubarb pickle jar is empty, you can just make a shrub that lasts in your fridge.
You can make a shrub out of any fruit but I loved the idea of making a sweet but tart syrup because I don’t like sweet cocktails.
A shrub can be either non-alcoholic or with spirits, according to Wikipedia.
So I take this as permission that I shouldn’t feel terrible that this rhubarb shrub would be great with gin or vodka.
How to Make a Shrub
There are two ways to make a shrub – either hot or cold.
There are shrub aficionados that will tell you there is really only one way. Before I made my own I thought this was very pretentious.
But now I think I may agree.
Hot Process Shrubs
In this case the rhubarb shrub is made similarly to a syrup.
The fruit is simmered in equal parts water and rhubarb to make a simple syrup and then mixed with equal parts water.
This is the fastest way to make a shrub. But as there is heat added early on you get a jammy flavour of rhubarb.
Cold Process Shrubs
The cold way takes longer but it is just as easy. The ratio is 1:1:1 for sugar, fruit and vinegar.
Those who like cold processed cures say it’s more true to the raw fruit flavour.
And as it’s never heated it seems logical. I actually preferred the flavour even more adding the vinegar as it was stronger.
To make a cold shrub top rhubarb with an equal amount of sugar and let it sit for a few days, stirring at least once a day.
Some people say it’s fine on the counter for two days, covered with dish cloth as the fruit will break down faster.
But I put it in the fridge and just let it sit for 4 days. I didn’t want to worry about contamination or fruit flies.
Along with the fruit you can add herbs, spices and other flavourings.
I used basil in this rhubarb shrub but other fresh herbs are common. Mint would be fantastic.
I also read about a pineapple jalapeno shrub that sounds delicious along with an apple brown sugar shrub with cinnamon and cardamon.
But it doesn’t work with absolutely everything.
For example, elderflower would need to be a hot process shrub or made into this elderflower cordial.
Shrub drinks are so versatile. Not only can you experiment with the fruit, herbs and spices but you can also experiment with the sugar and vinegar.
The general rule of shrubs is 1:1:1.
But like everything people have their own techniques as some like it sweeter and others more tart. But I think equal parts is a great place to start.
You can use either white or brown sugar for a cold process shrub.
Brown sugar adds a bit of depth and would be great with peaches, apples and other stone fruits.
In hot process shrubs you could also use honey or maple syrup as the sweetener.
Almost any type of vinegar works in a shrub. Some people swear that white wine vinegar helps bring out the flavour.
But I wanted a bit of colour and chose red wine vinegar.
Rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar and champagne vinegar are also common.
Coconut vinegar would add a great flavour and some shrub recipes mix a bit of balsamic into the shrub.
The only vinegar I wouldn’t use is plain white vinegar, which would be too acidic.
Rhubarb Shrub Recipe
Although I’m choosing to make a cold process shrub let me tell you there is no one singular rhubarb shrub recipe.
The general accepted starting point is equal parts of sugar, fruit and vinegar.
But some rhubarb shrub recipes use different ratios, just as they use different ingredients.
And some people let the sugar and fruit mixture sit on their kitchen counter for two days and others prefer the fridge.
And the number of days of how long it sits before vinegar and after vinegar varies.
But no need to be confused!
A fruit shrub recipe is very forgiving. So everyone has their own preferences but you really can’t screw it up.
I am sharing the classic 1-1-1 ratio because I think it’s a great starting point to build on.
From here you can decide if you want it to be sweeter or more tart with vinegar.
It also really depends on how ripe your fruit is. The rhubarb I have is a bit green, which I prefer because it will be a bit more tart.
And don’t worry if it’s too tart or too sweet on its own.
The shrub is diluted with sparkling water, alcohol or a mixture of both so you likely won’t notice the difference in the final drink.
How to Use a Shrub Syrup
- Serve 1 oz topped with sparkling soda or 7UP
- Add it to prosecco or cava for a rhubarb mimosa or bellini
- Mix it with vodka or gin with club soda
- Add a bit to this Boston sour recipe to make a rhubarb whiskey sour
- Pour 2 oz into this rose sangria to give it a tart punch
- 1 cup rhubarb, about 1/4 lb
- 6 basil leaves
- 1 cup white granulated sugar
- 3/4 -1 cup red wine vinegar
- Chop rhubarb and place in bowl with basil.
- Toss with granulated sugar.
- Put it fridge for 3-4 days, stirring it twice daily.
- Strain mixture into a large measuring cup or bowl. I left mine on counter for an hour to strain.
- Discard rhubarb and mix in an equal amount of vinegar. I had 3/4 cup liquid so I added 3/4 cup vinegar. But you could add as much as 1 cup or more.
- Pour into sanitized jar and place in fridge.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 69Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 2mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 0gSugar: 17gProtein: 0g
How Long Will a Shrub Last in the Fridge
It should keep for months in the fridge as long as it doesn’t come into contact with bacteria…like a dirty spoon.
If you notice it has become slimey or appears to be fermenting with bubbles or foam it is time to show it out.