We’re betting our sterling silver that this summer will be all about the shrub. No, we’re not talking about the bushy plant, but rather a tangy, vinegar-based drink that’s appearing on bar menus all over the South.
Shrubs aren’t a new invention; these piquant, refreshing elixirs date back to the 1700s. Classically, the shrub is a mix of fruity vinegar (in Colonial America, a byproduct of fruit preservation), sugar, and water. Today, ambitious bartenders have taken shrubs to new heights by crafting them with homespun vinegars and unusual flavors. If you’re ordering a drink at Nashville’s Lockeland Table, try Jim Popp and Elizabeth Endicott’s “Southern Girl,” one of their signature cocktails that features a seasonal shrub. Right now they’re mixing house-made strawberry-mint shrub with Belle Meade Bourbon and topping it with a splash of cava.
Rather imbibe at home? No problem. Artisans make drinking vinegars you can purchase to stir shrubs on your front porch. Splash the vinegar into club soda for a refreshing pick-me-up on a sweltering day. We like the pineapple drinking vinegar and apple drinking vinegar from Pok Pok Som and the blueberry vinegar from Sempio.
Or, try making your own drinking vinegar. Simply combine sliced fruit and sugar (1 cup of sugar for every pound of fruit) and let the mix sit overnight in the refrigerator. Juicy fruits like berries and stone fruit work best. In the morning, press the fruit through a strainer to squeeze out as much juice as possible. Then, stir 1 cup of Champagne vinegar into the reserved juice (1 cup of vinegar for every pound of fruit). Keep the mixture in the refrigerator.