The cocktail shrub originated in England when vinegar was used as an in the preservation of berries and other fruit. In the early 19th century, typical American recipes for shrubs called for vinegar infused with fruit. The shrub started out as a medicinal tincture, then morphed into a way to mask low quality spirits. Vinegar is infused with fruit, the fruit is then strained out after a few days. The remaining liquid is mixed with sugar or honey, heated and reduced to a syrup, which can be mixed with either water or soda water and served as a soft drink, or used as a mixer for cocktails. The acidity of the shrub makes it well suited as an apertif or alternative to bitters.
In the early 20th century, shrubs fell out of popularity with the advent of higher quality spirits. In the past few years, they have made a comeback with the craft cocktail movement.
A perfect cocktail for a hot summer afternoon, this cocktail features a Georgia Blueberry Shrub.
To make the Shrub:
2 c. cider vinegar
2 c. granulated sugar
2 1/2" slices fresh ginger root
4 c. blueberries
Combine vinegar, sugar and ginger in saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently, just until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 4 ice cubes until melted. Add blueberries and mash until no whole berries remain. Ginger coins will still be whole, leave those. Pour mixture into a 2+ quart glass jar. Cover and refrigerate for 5-7 days. Strain mixture through a chinois or fine mesh strainer, but don't scrape or force solids through. Alternately, you can pour into coffee filter set in a colander over a glass or stainless steel bowl, cover and refrigerate until completely strained, another day or so. Pour vinegar and berries into a stainless steel bowl and mash. Strain into a sauce pan and discard the solids. Store, tightly covered and refrigerated for up to 2 months.
To make the ginger sugar: Whisk together 1/2 c. white sugar with 1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger. Spread on a saucer.
Summer Blueberry Chiller
1 1/2 oz. Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka
1/2 oz. blueberry shrub*
1/2 oz. lemon juice
2 oz. club soda or seltzer water
Run lemon wedge around top of tall cocktail glass. Dip glass rim into ginger sugar. Add ice cubes to glass. Combine vodka, shrub and juice in shaker, shake and strain cocktail over ice. Top off with club soda, stir and garnish with skewer of fresh blueberries.
Fun Facts: Should a cocktail be shaken or stirred? When a cocktail is shaken, more water dilutes the cocktail than when it's stirred. Cocktail recipes account for the water coming from the ice to make the perfect drink. The rule of thumb is: spirit-based drinks are always stirred and fruit-based cocktails are always shaken.