I admit it, I’d never heard of a “shrub” before researching this week’s featured summer cocktail recipe, but apparently, they’re all the rage at obscure speakeasies or anywhere it takes the bartender a fantastically long time to mix a drink.
Seriously, I visited a Brooklyn watering hole not long ago and it took the bartender — a natty mustachioed fellow in suspenders who looked like he walked out of an Edith Wharton novel — literally 15 minutes to make my drink, pouring bits of bitters and syrups and infusions while muddling rare tropical leaves into the glass. It was ridiculous! Right then I decided the time it takes to make a cocktail should not overshadow my ability to enjoy it.
Which is why I like the shrub, an 18th century vinegar-based drink usually infused with fruit and cooked down with sugar and sometimes mixed with booze. It’s essentially a tart, acidic mixer used in lieu of traditional acids like lemons and limes. It’s great because you can keep a jar stashed in your fridge all summer long for adding to bubbly water, soda or sparkling wine when guests drop by unexpectedly; drinks without mess or fuss.
I made a shrub out of rhubarb because that’s what I had on hand.
Strain (discard the rhubarb chunks) into a saucepan with 1 cup granulated sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Let it cool and taste. Add more sugar if it’s too tart. Add up to a cup and a half more rum if you require more spike. Keep it stashed in the refrigerator forever (vinegar doesn’t go bad).
To make a cocktail, mix 1 part shrub to 4 parts fizzy water, soda or sparkling wine and serve immediately over ice.
Variations on the shrub are endless — rhubarb can be swapped for strawberries, raspberries, kiwi, and apple cider vinegar can be traded for white or champagne vinegar, or try honey or brown sugar instead of white sugar — so have fun!
(See my previous summer cocktail recipe here).