Thursday, August 18, 2011

I drink vinegar

 I've been drinking vinegar lately. 

And no, this isn't a weird pregnancy thing. 

Granted, my expanding belly & swollen ankles have made it pretty clear that my condition is nothing short of "delicate".  I've not been inclined towatrd any bizarre cravings.  In fact I haven't even been that hungry for about the past month since Bean's last growth spurt left him pressed beneath my stomach, significantly reducing the "eat, and eat NOW" signals to my brain.

No, "drinking vinegar" (as a noun) is an old-fashioned beverage called a "shrub".

OK, get it out of your system...


NPR recently did a story about shrubs, or drinking vinegars.  Then a friend of mine who'd heard the same story posted pictures of her concoctions on her facebook page.  Being pregnant, unable to partake of my nightly glass of wine, and highly susceptible to edible suggestions, I was game to try it for myself.

A little internet research on the topic revealed that I'm perhaps a little behind the trend:

Granted, perhaps it's not a "trend", per se, if drinking vinegars have been around since Roman times.   This is the best resource I found on shrubs, both on their history but also on their preparation.

There are two methods to make a shrub: hot and cold.  Both are simple.  Hot is fast, cold is slow.  I happened to have blackberries that were rapidly deteriorating, and blueberries that I bought (unknowingly) past their prime.  Both are ideal for shrubs - save the perfect fruit for preserves.  I used raspberry vinegar that I'd made 2 years ago and had no idea what to do with... until now!

Blackberry Shrub (hot/fast method)
1 cup blackberries
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup sugar

Heat berries & vinegar in a saucepan until boiling, boil for 10 minutes.  Strain out the berries and add the sugar.  Allow to cool.  Store in fridge.  Mix 1 part shrub syrup to 4 parts water or club soda (or make ratio to your taste).

Blueberry Shrub (cold/slow method), recipe from Epicurious
I recommend mashing the berries before macerating them in the vinegar for a few days.  Otherwise you don't get as much flavor from the berries in the syrup.  You will have to strain the mixture but the extra effort is worthwhile.

Still feeling adventurous?  Here are a few more recipes, these taken from cookbooks dating to the 1800s.

By now you're surely thinking: "Jenn, get to the point: what does it taste like".  I think that the flavor profile is a lot like a lemonade: sour and sweet at the same time.  It smells faintly like vinegar but not overpoweringly so.  It is, as reported elsewhere, very refreshing and addictive.  One person wrote that it they felt they'd found their first "true non-alcoholic beverage for adults".  I like it because it's not cloyingly sweet.

You can use it as a mixer for cocktails but be mindful of the acid.  Imagine a blended blackberry shrub margarita.  Oh yum.  Blueberry shrub muddled with rum and mint?  Yes, please.  Raspberry shrub and vodka over ice?  Yes yes yes!

The second time I had a glass - and I find myself drinking 2 glasses at a time - I poured more of the syrup than I thought I'd want.  It was better with more syrup!  It was sweeter and less tart.  Strange but good.

If you're looking for something new (but old), want to offer unique non-alcoholic beverages to your guests, or even are searching for a new cocktail mixer, try making a shrub.

Besides, it's kinda fun to see the look on people's faces when you tell them you drink vinegar.


  1. I had to good fortune to partake in the blueberry shrub. I added a little lemonade, and my goodness, it was fabulous! Tasted like one of those fancy, schmancy sodas that cost $3 a bottle. Nummy!!!

  2. This was delicious! Looking forward to making this my evening refresher drink with the blueberry vinegar you sent home with me! Like Deana, I liked the version with lemonade.