Shrub: A Colonial Tradition Makes an Exciting Return
We are a generation of cocktail enthusiasts. We started referring to bartenders as "mixologists," as they slowly morphed into 1920s-era dandies with waxed mustaches. We now expect cleverly-named signature cocktails from established bars and restaurants. Some trends fall flat, like gold flakes in your drink. It was a flavorless expense.
But a new cocktail trend has taken off, and it blew me away. At the speakeasy Grandstaff & Stein, I ordered a drink called The Briar Patch, and it was tart, tangy and sweet. That's when I learned about shrubs, the sweet drinking vinegar infused with fruit, and/or herbs.
Luckily, here in Virginia we have Mother Shrub, a business that specializes in small-batch shrubs, made locally. Owner Meredyth Archer remembers growing up in West Virginia drinking shrub with her grandmother, who was convinced it was the cure to everything. Archer stumbled upon a family cookbook from the 1800s, found a recipe for drinking vinegar, and never looked back.
You can find a great variety of Mother Shrub drinking vinegars at your local Ladles & Linens store. And below, we got a little intel from Mother Shrub herself!
Me: Favorite shrub?
Meredyth: Such a hard question! My favorites vary depending on the time of year and what I am in the mood to drink. Lately I've been drinking either the Salted Honey or Grapefruit shrub mixed with seltzer. So refreshing! For Cinco de Mayo I made a margarita hybrid with tequila, fresh lime juice, and grapefruit shrub topped with Modelo Especial.
Me: What are some other fun ways to enjoy shrub?
Meredyth: I have been making some honey-sweetened lemonades and adding a shot of Black Cherry, Cranberry or Ginger shrub to make a non-alcoholic drink, or spiking them with a shot of vodka or moonshine. A couple of combinations I love are AR's Hot Southern Honey-sweetened lemonade with ginger shrub and moonshine or a wildflower honey sweetened lemonade with Black Cherry shrub and vodka. I've also been playing around with some kombucha and shrub mocktails and cocktails.
Me: Can you share a recipe?
Meredyth: Basic favorite mocktail: 1 oz Grapefruit shrub, topped with 4-6 oz sparkling water. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary. Punch it up by adding 1 1/2 oz grapefruit infused spirit like Belle Isle Ruby Red Moonshine or Deep Eddy Grapefruit Vodka.
Me: Favorite salad dressing or marinade recipe?
Meredyth: Mix 1.5 parts any flavor MOTHER shrub with 1 part olive oil. Season to taste. Add salt and pepper, fresh or dried herbs.