The Year In Food » Fine Seasonal Eating

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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.

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)

sparkling water

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.

  • sara - Yum, what a gorgeous drink! Love the color – just beautiful. Sounds really delicious.ReplyCancel

  • la domestique - Love concord grapes, never had a shrub- can’t wait to give it a try!ReplyCancel

  • Season with Reason - How fun! And so much better than spitting out grape seeds one by one.ReplyCancel

  • Brian @ A Thought For Food - I have never heard of a shrub before but I have a feeling I’ll love it! We have picked concord grapes around here but I’ve never come up with a good way to use them. Thanks for the inspiration darling!ReplyCancel

  • tara - i just really like the word shrub. these sound brilliant!ReplyCancel

  • Katherine - Drinking vinegars have become big here in Portland (thanks to Ping and other restaurants like it), what a cool thing to have on hand!ReplyCancel

  • NicoleD - Ooo…love the pretty purplish/pink color! Never heard of this kind of shrub, how unique!ReplyCancel

  • Kathryn - How cool! Never had a shrub before, but now I’m intrigued!ReplyCancel

  • Baking Holly - These pictures are so great!! Thank for the post :)ReplyCancel

  • Anna - I don’t really mix a lot of drinks in my kitchen, but I think this is worth trying =)ReplyCancel

  • SG - I have never had a shrub before – thanks for introducing me to this wonderful world. This sounds like the perfect drink for me and I cannot wait to get to it! Shrubbie shrub shrub.ReplyCancel

  • Lynda - Oh, I like this! Does it work to mix with wine?ReplyCancel

  • Katherine Sacks - Saw concord grapes at the farmers’ market today and was tempted to purchase them all! Love this idea!ReplyCancel

  • Heather @opgastronomia - Did someone say cocktail hour?! This sounds absolutely delicious and like a great way to celebrate grape season.ReplyCancel

  • Kate - You know, I’d never heard of a shrub until right now. Sounds really interesting. I love grape juice, red wine, and vinegar, so I can’t imagine not loving it!ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth @ Saffron Lane - Just lovely and intriguingly refreshing, to boot.ReplyCancel

  • Nikole - Wow, such a neat thing, I’ve never tried this before but I totally will.ReplyCancel

  • Kasey - A drink called shrub…I’m sold!ReplyCancel

  • kankana - That looks soo pretty and colorful! The husband loves loves grapes and I have to make this drink for him :)ReplyCancel

  • kickpleat - I’ve been wanting to make a shrub for AGES! I love the look of this drink – especially with concord grapes. Well, we have Coronation Grapes up in BC and I think they are way better than concord grapes and I just might have to pick up a batch at the next farmer’s market.ReplyCancel

  • Deb - If you’d like to try a sample of hot-processed shrubs, I make and sell them in seasonal fruit flavors and would be happy to send you one!ReplyCancel

  • joanne - Somehow I’ve never encountered a vinegar shrub before but with concord grape flavor infused in there, it must be delicious!ReplyCancel

  • Jason McLeod - Kimberly

    Another beautiful post. I love Concord Grapes, so much flavor. This drink sounds just right.ReplyCancel

  • Ania - Never tried with grapes but I made raspberry vinegar last year. It made the most refreshing drink during the hot summer. No way as sweet as any commercial soda with a lovely thirst quenching tang. I used a Pam Corbin recipe, soak the fruit in vinegar for a few days, strain then add sugar and boil for 8 mins – 600ml of vinegar to 450 g of sugar. This year I’m made blackberry and another batch of raspberry. The no cook way certainly sounds interesting.ReplyCancel

  • Grant Kessler - Followed directions and now have a hazy fungus in my shrub. Either it’s a healthy mother, or it’s not and I have no idea how to know. Hate to waste this. Should I remove this cloud and boil the whole thing?

    Love shrubs and make them all the time, but this is the first no-cook one I’ve made and the first time I’ve seen this. Thoughts?ReplyCancel

  • The Updated Martha Stewart « Winter's Child - […] champagne yeast instead of bread yeast, maybe that would help next time as well. Lastly I made this! A SHRUBBERY! A non-alcoholic kick in the face. It tastes delicious and it hasn’t even settled […]ReplyCancel

  • Sylvie in Rappahannock - Hi Kimberley – found your gorgeous and informative site through Saveur. SO glad to have found it too!

    I make shrub with cranberries, blackberries, rasberries and other berries. Never thought to do it with concord grapes – but of course – it makes sense (plus grapes are botnacialy speaking berries too).

    I have also tried the cold method, but I infuser the fruit straight in vinegar for several weeks, before straining and adding either sugar syrup or honey. Both delicious…ReplyCancel

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