Six years ago, I declared it was the summer of shrubs. I made this fruit/vinegar syrup out of every in-season fruit I could get my hands on, including the mulberries I foraged from the trees around my niece's farm.
Shrubs are a mixture of fruit, sugar and vinegar, and they can be created quickly by boiling all together, or cold-steeping everything together for several days. During colonial times, they were a way to preserve fruit. The modern DIY movement along with revived cocktail culture brought shrubs back in fashion in the past decade.
The first shrub I ever made was rhubarb, and I used it in cocktails, mixed it with homemade limoncello and used it with tonic water for a non-alcoholic drink with quite a bite. Because shrubs are made with vinegar, the kick of the vinegar is always discernible and a little shrub goes a long way in a drink.
The shrub obsession slid for a few years, but it's back, and this time I'm adding herbs. I made rhubarb-basil shrub with farmers market rhubarb and basil from my garden. It's been fun to play with, and this is the combination I've come up with that I've enjoyed the most.
I built the cocktail - that has no name as of yet - in an 8 oz. vintage glass on top of ice. Simple, a bit sweet, a bit sour.
You don't have make your own shrub. You can buy them at farmers market and specialty shops. This pomegranate and rosemary version came from one of my local farmers market. I used it in a cocktail with gin, simple syrup, and lemon, shaken and served straight up. Very refreshing.
This weekend, find or make yourself some shrub and get experimenting.