Real shrubs are for your cocktail glass. And no, they are not the kind that take up room in your front yard. Shrubs are an almost unheard-of combination of both vinegar and preserved fruit and cane sugar syrup. During the late summer months, they are especially delicious because they are cost next to nothing to make and quite thirst slaking. They also mix really nicely with Cannabis in a cocktail made with rum.
The history of shrubs dates back hundreds of years. They were most frequently used into the mid-1800s. The people who enjoyed them were amongst the working class and mostly because of the utter lack of refrigeration. No electricity, meaning no refrigeration for food preservation means all bad things to the gut.
But everything isn’t gloom and doom. Enter this home-made, vinegar based- fruit syrup. Shrubs were an inexpensive, sweet refreshment that could be added to a multitude of alcoholic liquids. People found that drinking certain kinds of acidulated liquids like these preserved fruit shrubs helped ease their aching bellies from the consumption of ‘certainly compromised foods and drink’.
Drinking these easy to make and easier to enjoy- sweet and tangy beverages were found to give the imbiber quick energy, too. Were they the first energy drinks? Possibly…
Fast forward to today, mixologists have rediscovered the magic of utilizing fresh fruit and vegetable shrubs in their craft cocktails. And now aficionados are starting to toy with them at home because of their ease in production.
Shrubs can be simply made with only three easy-to-purchase ingredients: raw sugar, some kind of vinegar and just over-ripe fruit, plus a bit of fresh water. They have a salty, sea-like undertone after they ferment for a few weeks, but are also sweet and tart. The fruit gives a deeply welcome hit of sweet perfume, the cane sugar (essential) sweetens naturally, and the unmistakable tang of your favorite vinegar makes your lips pucker, and few things are more salutary for the gut than naturally fermented beverages. Shrubs really were the original energy and health drink. And now it looks like this tangy combination of flavors have received their second wind!
Note: These shrubs will remain fresh for 1 to 2 months in the refrigerator, unless until they start to dance the jig and sing in Gaelic, then make a new batch immediately!
Summer Raspberry Shrub
(Makes about 1.5 cups)
This very basic shrub makes all kinds of refreshing combinations. Although the raspberry shrub starts out vividly red, in the end result, after a couple of weeks fermenting; the shrub will have a pale coral hue. It’s delicious mixed with gin, vodka, rum, whiskey, Madeira, a smoky Scotch, Sherry, white wine, sparkling wine- and of course just plain water like they used to drink in the Colonial period!
- 1 cup very ripe organic raspberries (they can be bruised and soft, but please, no mold)
- 1 cup raw cane sugar (Sugar in the Raw or like product)
- 1 cup raw cider vinegar (I use Bragg’s with the Mother Yeast intact)
- In a nonreactive bowl made of either ceramic or glass (or possibly stainless), add raspberries and pour sugar over the top.
- Cover and let sit refrigerated for a few days, stirring and muddling often with a wooden spoon to combine. This mixture should expel lots of liquid, and this is good!
- After a few days of gentle fermentation, add the apple cider vinegar. Let the vinegar combine with the sugar and raspberries for another week refrigerated. (Cellar temperature if you want to be absolutely authentic)
- Arrange a fine-mesh strainer over a nonreactive bowl (one with a spout is handy). Pour the shrub mixture into the strainer and mash with a wooden spoon to extract as much liquid as possible.
- Funnel the shrub into sterilized jars, this means submerged in boiling water for at least a minute and removed with sterilized rubber tipped tongs.
- Cover and refrigerate (or cellar temp) for at least a week more, shaking well before using.
The assertive vinegar flavor will fade over time, leaving you a lightly thick- simple syrup that is tangy, sweet and very noteworthy!
Tip: A simple way to enjoy this raspberry shrub is with a glass of seltzer water and the addition of a few slivers of lemon zest. I also like to add it to gin!
Cannabis Infused Simple Syrup
(Use strain of your choice)
- 2 cups raw cane sugar – like sugar in the raw
- 3 cups filtered water
- 2 tablespoons vegetable glycerin (this helps supercharge the cannabis)
- 3 or more grams finely chopped, ultra-high-grade cannabis
- The first thing you have to do is measure out equal parts of sugar and water then bring the water to a boil.
- Drop the heat down, just a bit- you’ll know when you see the sugar turning to caramel that it’s too hot!
- Add in your finely chopped cannabis and stir in until the sugar has been completely dissolved.
- Cover the pot and bring it to a quick simmer (do not boil!) for about 30 minutes.
- Cool for ½ hour, bring back up to a simmer. Stir in the vegetable glycerin. Strain.
- Let cool again, and refrigerate for up to two weeks.
Fresh Toast Fizzy
- large handmade ice cubes
- 4 ounces independent producer rum- think no chill filtering or any added caramel for color (the real thing)
- 1 ounce Raspberry Shrub
- 1 ounce cannabis tincture infused simple syrup (using the strain and amount of your choice)
- 4 dashes Angostura Bitters
- splash of fizzy water
- Fill a cocktail shaker three-quarters full with ice.
- Pour in your rum, your handmade Shrub and the simple syrup (either cannabis infused or not) over the ice.
- Cover, cap and shake hard for 15 seconds or until the shaker is really frosty.
- Add a large ice cube to each of 2 coupe glasses. Strain cocktail into each of the glasses, dash the Angostura over the top of each glass (2 dashes each) and serve while icy with a splash of fizzy water of course!
- Use the Thai spice principle. You can always add more spice- but you can never take it away!
NEVER more than one per hour…