Vinegar shrubs are just about the neatest thing ever. While there is apparently a long and noble tradition of diluting vinegar in water with a little honey for a refreshing drink, the shrub seems to have risen to popularity during temperance movements in the nineteenth century, when respectable ladies sought satisfying alternatives to strong drink.
There are many ways to go about making a shrub, but I opted to follow the wisdom of Michael Dietsch on Serious Eats and used the cold process. That is, rather than preparing a simple syrup by heating fruit, sugar and water together, I let the grapes macerate overnight in just sugar, then strained the next day and added vinegar. This preserves some of the subtle qualities of the uncooked fruit at its best. (But I won’t tell if you choose to heat it – you’ll bypass having to let it sit overnight this way.) Theirs called for equal parts sugar, fruit and vinegar. I scaled the sugar way back, and am happy that I did. It’s still sweet, but not cloyingly so.
Mixed with sparkling water (or sparkling wine, or vermouth, or vodka – limitless options!), you get yourself a fine effervescent beverage that’s got the uniquely attractive sweet and sour pucker of both vinegar and fruit.
CONCORD GRAPE SHRUB
adapted from Serious Eats
6 cups concord grapes, thoroughly rinsed (can substitute an equal quantity of any fruit)
2 cups granulated sugar
3 cups white wine vinegar (apple cider vinegar also works well)
Combine the grapes with the sugar and gently mash the fruit to release its juice. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit overnight in the fridge.
Strain grape juice through a fine mesh strainer. Use the back of a large wooden spoon to coax more juice from the fruit. (And let it sit for at least a half hour to get all that juice out.)
Add the vinegar to the juice.
Using a funnel, strain your lovely shrub into glass jars and let them sit for at least a week before serving.
They should last up to a year in the fridge.