Christmas is fast approaching and along with the festive season comes sun and parties. The quest for this season’s thirst quenching and refreshing grown-up drink begins! Bubbles and/or ice generally feature heavily in such a choice in summer.
Although, vinegar is unlikely to be at front of mind when considering what to drink, it has a long history in the beverage category. There are plenty of variants on vinegar and fruit-based drinks, going back hundreds of years. The Switchel (Haymakers Punch), a combination of apple cider vinegar, lemon, ginger and honey in water, is one of the original electrolyte drinks, the Shrub is another.
What is a shrub?
A plant, yes, but the shrubs referred to here are beverages. Spelt the same way, their name comes from the Arabic word Sharab, meaning ‘to drink’.
Shrub drinks, in the form known today, are inspired by the colonial Americans, who were a resourceful group and wasted little. The origin of these drinks is somewhat before this time, however, possibly back as far as the middle ages. Medicinal cordials of the 15th Century were also part of the history of these drinks, using spirits instead of vinegar.
Prior to refrigeration, fruit (usually berries) was soaked in vinegar, preserving the fruit for later consumption. Once the fruit was consumed, the vinegar was sweetened with sugar or honey and was then used to flavour the river water to make it more drinkable.
Shrub syrup can be mixed with soda or mineral water to make a soft drink — an excellent alternative to commercial carbonated water flavourings. Shrubs can be added to a cocktail much like bitters. They can even be used in your cooking where a sweet, acidic quality is required, such as in dressings and marinades. A variety of different types of fermented vinegar can be used, with apple cider vinegar being the most popular. There are a variety of documented health benefits that also go along with drinking these vinegar-based drinks, the list being almost endless, from sugar management to heartburn and digestion relief.
Fruit chutney or fruit spreads can be made from the fruit, if eating vinegar-soaked fruit is not to your taste.
Try a Shrub cocktail – Orange and Lavender Shrub with Lemonade or soda, (and a splash of Gin if you are after something stronger) is one of my favourites.
Has this sparked your curiosity in Shrubs? Shrubs are available for sale at the Locavore Store in Bindoon.