All we need is shrub - Aviation American Gin

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All we need is shrub

What is shrub?Besides being a very short tree, another blogger, explains the cocktail ingredient as this,“Shrub is a fruit syrup fortified with vinegar. It represents the season’s best, preserved and stored without the need for refrigeration.”American shrub was traditionally made from berries infused with vinegar, anywhere from overnight up to several days; afterward the fruit would be strained out and the remaining liquid would be mixed with a sweetener and then reduced to make a syrup. Wikipedia says, “that the sweet-and-sour syrup could be mixed with either water or soda water and served as a soft drink, or it could be used as a mixer in alcoholic cocktails. Shrubs eventually fell out of popularity with the advent of home refrigeration.”

Shrub was introduced as a cocktail ingredient to me by one of my mentors and San Francisco barman, Neyah White. At the time Neyah made shrub syrups at his restaurant Nopa, to share what was fresh and available, seasonal fruits in cocktails at a truly seasonal restaurant.


Vinegar in cocktails? What???

“Vinegar is great as an appetite exciter. Think pickles and olives.” Says

Also think aperitif, an aperitif is an alcoholic beverage usually served before a meal to stimulate the appetite, and is therefore usually dry rather than sweet.

Lastly, bartenders hunger for acid, a balancing ingredient that completes the “sour” element in a classic sour cocktail format of sweet, bitter, water, spirit, sour. Vinegar and shrub syrups can serve as acid in a cocktail without the need of traditional lemon or lime juice.


How do you make a shrub?

“The secret for a good shrub is keeping the sugar and vinegar in balance (akin to lemon and sugar in a Sour, with both the lemon’s citric acid and the vinegar’s acetic acid giving a similar zesty bite to the drink). Neyah prefers that shrubs not be cooked. While cooking is quicker, the end result will be less bright.

For a baseline recipe, use 1/3 fruit, 1/3 sugar, 1/3 vinegar.

A sugar maceration (squeezing fruit flesh through the fingers is acceptable) stage should occur first, followed by hitting it with vinegar afterward.” –


How does this work as a means to preserve?

“When a shrub ages, it is like an ecosystem. The ambient yeast (yeast on the fruit itself and yeast from the air) turns the sugar into alcohol, and the acetobacter (the bacteria in unpasteurized vinegar) turns the alcohol into more vinegar. Eventually this will stabilize and not turn the whole shrub into fruit vinegar since the bacteria-induced pH change will stall out the yeast’s fermentation process (and thus the bacteria’s acetic acid-producing pathway).” –Neyah White


ALL WE NEED IS SHRUB (Brooke Arthur)









Plum Shrub (Brooke Arthur)

20 plums

32 oz cane sugar

750 ml champagne vinegar

2 oz cardomom

2 oz juniper berries

2 peeled oranges and their juices

pinch of salt

1 basket raspberries


-Pit all the plums and place into a small cambro, add sugar equal parts to plums roughly and raspberries and cover. Let sit for around an hour or until sugar dissolves and it becomes a thick syrup, stirring when needed. Add champagne vinegar and blend with a hand blender until plums are blended. Add all other ingredients, stir and cover for a minimum of a week, better in two. Do not refrigerate, but make sure it is sealed tight.

Strain and bottle.



-Brooke Arthur 2/14/2014


Thanks to Neyah White, Wikipedia, &

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