Non alcoholic drinks don’t have to be boring, as is the case with these fruity vinegar-based mocktails. Play around with different fruits, vinegars, and flavorings to make your own unique concoction!
A shrub is a simple infusion of fruit, vinegar and sugar that, when topped with sparkling soda and other flavors, makes for a unique and interesting refreshment – no alcohol required (although it certainly wouldn’t suffer if you wanted to add some).
This recipe was created in partnership with Delallo®, our go-to brand for authentic Italian flavor, including pastas, sauces, and specialty imports.
I really love cocktails, or rather, I really love the idea of cocktails. I love the creativity of the flavors, the clever names, the impressive presentations. Unfortunately, my body doesn’t necessarily agree, reacting to the tiniest sip of alcohol as if it were an entire glass.
So most of the time I’m relegated to just a sip of whatever concoction Taylor is enjoying. And maybe a ginger beer if the bar happens to serve it.
Needless to say it makes me really excited when I find a restaurant that actually has a few non-alcoholic mocktails on their menu. Why more bars and restaurants don’t do this is beyond me. Give the DD some love!
One of my favorite faux-cocktail tricks is the shrub: a fruit and vinegar infusion that gives non-alcoholic beverages much of the same interest and ‘bite’ as their boozy counterparts. Shrubs are great bases for alcoholic cocktails too.
The basic equation for a homemade shrub is fruit + vinegar + sugar. Smash and let macerate for a few days, then strain and enjoy. The finished shrub will keep for months (although I have a feeling it will get used up much sooner). And unlike what you might think, it does not taste like you’re chugging vinegar. The sugar and fruit soften the vinegar’s bite, leaving a candy-like tartness that’s perfect for sipping.
The basic formula is incredibly versatile; you can really use any combination of fruit and vinegar that your heart desires. I used mostly red fruits and berries here, because they were so well matched to the flavor (and color) of Delallo’s Chianti Red Wine Vinegar, but other fruits like peaches, apricots, even pineapples would make lovely shrubs as well.
In addition to mixing up the fruit, you can also play with different vinegars as well. While I used mainly red wine vinegar, I also played with adding a splash of tart and fruity balsamic vinegar, which is absolutely spectacular when paired with strawberries, raspberries or cherries. I found using all balsamic was a little too intense, but a mix of balsamic and red wine was perfect.
Really, as long as the proportions of total fruit to vinegar stay somewhat the same, homemade shrubs are endlessly versatile. While a little sugar is needed, you can increase or decrease it as you like and depending on the natural sweetness of the fruit you are using.
And once you have your shrub, well, all you really need for a spectacular mocktail is a splash of soda, but you can really go wild with different flavor combinations!Swap the club soda for ginger beer or flavored sparkling waters, or try adding a splash of infused sugar syrup, like homemade elderflower syrup or the tangy rhubarb syrup from my jam ebook series.
Some of my favorite flavor combinations:
- Strawberry elderflower (pictured here): Fresh strawberries, red wine vinegar, splash of elderflower syrup and a squeeze of lemon.
- Raspberry rose: fresh raspberries, dried rose petals, red wine vinegar.
- Strawberry balsamic: fresh strawberries, 3 parts red wine vinegar to 1 part balsamic vinegar. Also great with a twist of black pepper!
- Ginger pomegranate: fresh pomegranate arils, red wine vinegar, topped with spicy ginger beer.
A lot of shrub recipes out there call for white vinegar. Honestly, I don’t see the point. The vinegar is, along with the fruit, the main source of flavor in a homemade shrub, so why not take advantage and use a flavorful vinegar? Red wine (like this lovely Delallo Chianti Red Wine Vinegar) as well as cider vinegars are my favorites to use for shrubs, but I’ve also come to love a splash of good balsamic as well.
When using balsamic vinegar in your shrub, I found that using 100% balsamic for the shrub was too overpowering. Rather, a combination of 3 parts red wine vinegar to 1 part balsamic was better balanced, with a lovely balsamic flavor that didn’t overpower the fruit. This is not a recipe where you want to use your super expensive aged balsamic; save that for dipping and drizzling. Instead, I recommend a quality mid-range balsamic vinegar like DeLallo Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. For the price, it’s one of the best tasting balsamic vinegars you can find.
My shrub is uncooked, cold-processed if you will, using the sugar (and a bit of good old fashioned patience) to draw out the fruit juices and infuse the vinegar with flavor. I prefer the fresher fruit taste that you get this way, not to mention the under-10-minute prep time. However, if you want to use your shrub immediately, simply simmer the vinegar, sugar and fruit together until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool slightly, then strain out the bits of fruit.
A shrub is a great way to get more life out of overripe or less than perfect fruit; the aescetic acid in vinegar acts as a natural preservative, and shrubs will easily keep in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. If you do plan to store it this long I recommend taking a bit of extra time to properly sterilize your jars first. While I haven’t personally tested it, the high acidity of a shrub makes it the perfect candidate for water-bath canning too, if you’d like to preserve them for long-term, room-temperature storage (or gifting!)
Basic Fruit & Vinegar Shrub
Tart and tangy and perfect for mocktails, homemade fruit shrubs can be made with just about any fruit and vinegar combination your heart desires.
- 4 ounces fresh fruit (such as raspberries or strawberries) – if using strawberries or other larger fruits remove hull and coarsely chop.
- 1/4 cup vinegar of your choice*
- 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar, more or less to taste
- Combine fruit, vinegar and sugar in a bowl or glass measuring cup. Mash fruit together with vinegar and sugar to release the fruit’s juices. Transfer to a clean pint jar or other tight-sealing container and refrigerate for at 24 hours or up to 3 days.
- Strain out solids (the fruit can be reused for another purpose), funnel into a clean (and ideally sterilized) jar. Shrub can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
- To mix, pour 1 to 2 tablespoons shrub syrup over ice and top with 4 ounces of club soda, or to taste. You can play around with flavored sodas, adding aromatics like rose petals to the shrub itself, or adding flavored syrups like elderflower syrup for myriad unique flavor combinations.
*Red wine vinegar and cider vinegar are my favorite varieties to use for shrubs: red wine is particularly suited to red fruits and berries as it enhances their natural color. If you’d like to add balsamic vinegar, use 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar to 3 tablespoons red wine (balsamic is too strong a flavor to be used on its own).