Until a week or so ago, if you had asked me what a shrub is I would have said something along the lines of a small bushy plant. I am no gardener so if I am way off the green-fingered among you will need to forgive me ! But in basic terms I would have said plant.
So for me the idea that shrub could also mean drink has been a completed revelation. For my readers across the pond I think you may be more familiar with this meaning but here in the UK, very few people seem to have heard of them.
The best definition of shrub I have found comes from and entry in The Ark of Taste, published by the Slow Food Foundation:
Shrub is a colonial-day drink whose name is derived from the Arabic word sharab, to drink. It is a concentrated syrup made from fruit, vinegar, and sugar that is traditionally mixed with water to create a refreshing drink that is simultaneously tart and sweet. In the nineteenth-century, the drink was often spiked brandy or rum. Ubiquitous in colonial times, the use of shrubs as a flavoring for tonic and sodas subsided with increasing industrial production of foods. The entire shrub market was practically ceased until the Tait family in Pennsylvania revived the drink. In addition to being available for commercial sale by the Tait’s, shrub is also served at establishments that stress historical connections to colonial times, like Williamsburg, VA, and City Tavern in Philadelphia.
The basic ingredients are fruit, vinegar and sugar. Sometimes you might also add herbs or spices.
Since I stopped drinking I have been looking for drinks which make me feel special, a kind of sober treat. Generally I like drinks which have a bit of a zing so I have gravitated toward lime, lemon, mint, elderflower, usually combined with soda water and served over ice in one of my special glasses.
I am not especially keen on alcohol free beers – when I was drinking I didn’t really like the alcoholic version. Most of the dealcoholised wines seem to have a low percentage of alcohol – perhaps 0.5% and for me being completely alcohol free is important. I am scared that having even a tiny bit could set me on the path to a relapse.
I have found a lot of drinks too sweet and as I am trying to cut down on sugar they are not ideal. I do drink Diet Coke and diet Orangina and a lot of sparking water.
So discovering shrubs has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me. I have been on what could possibly have been described as a bit of a “shrub binge”.
I bought Michael Dietch’s “Shrubs An Old-Fashioned Drink for Modern Times” which as well as interesting sections on the history of shrubs and the theory of shrubbing (I love that word) contains lots of delicious recipes. I have posted a photo of my favourites so far which is a cucumber shrub. It is SO easy to make:
2 large cucumbers
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
Add cucumbers and blend until pureed
Press the puree through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl
Add the juice, vinegar,salt and sugar to a bottle and shake. Refrigerate.
Serve over ice combined with soda water.
Simple as that ! You can vary which vinegars and sugar you use and the quantities according to taste.
As well as because it tastes wonderful, I like this recipe because it is ready to drink straight away whereas a lot of the other recipes call for a few days in the fridge before drinking. I am really impatient so I make this one while I am waiting for my others to be ready.
Yesterday I noticed a recipe for shrub in the Guardian food section so perhaps shrubbing is going to take off in the UK. I like to think I am ahead of the game.
So come on everyone get shrubbing ! Share your recipes here and we can start a shrubbing revolution.
Happy Sober Sunday.