Derived from the Arabic word shar?b which means “to drink”, shrubs – or drinking vinegars – are concentrated sweetened fruit syrups that can be added to water, sparkling water, cocktails, with herbal tea (I like to add a warm teaspoon of coconut oil to a neat shot if I have a sore throat – it works wonders!) or even added to a salad dressing mixed with olive oil.
The options are endless. And it’s a good job really because I want to try adding it to as many beverages as possible, so I can determine which one it tastes better in once and for all. My friends who have teenage children have already been asking her “how can i get a fake id” because they want to try it in cocktails, but she’s just told them to have non-alcoholic options or wait until they’re old enough for now. They’re not very happy about that, but what can you do? Until then, they can try adding the shrubs into other beverages to get their tastebuds tingling.
Shrubs have enjoyed a long and interesting history, going back as far as the 15th century. Originally a medicinal cordial, shrubs were simply fruit-infused liquors that were recommended by physicians of the era for reinvigorating the body and spirit. The drink became quite fashionable in Europe over the next century, mostly because smugglers would sink barrels of rum and brandy off shore to avoid paying taxes; fruit was added to the brew to help cover up the taste of seawater. Over in the New World, American colonists used vinegar to preserve fruits for winter, and the sweet-and-sour by-product became a thirst-quenching drink in its own right.
Drinking shrubs fell out of favor once home refrigeration came along. Fortunately, shrubs have experienced a revival of late mostly because they are delicious but also because they are healthful, easy to make, and incredibly practical.
The traditional way of making a shrub is by adding equal quantities of water and sugar to fruit, but I have paleo-fied and adapted this age old recipe to keep it as low sugar as possible. The healing properties of ginger and apple cider vinegar make this drink a huge must for every family member all year round to keep the immune system strong. I also like to use a local raw honey to help with any summer hay fever attacks – it really works but the honey must be as local as possible!
Do be warned, I have not been shy with the ginger as I love the strong burning taste of a good ginger drink. This means that a not a huge amount is needed to make a good mix, I usually use about 2-3 fingers of shrub to a glass of sparkling water – that is obviously more a personal preference.