Not That Kind of Shrub

I find that I explain what shrubs are about once a week during the summer. That might not sound like much, but I don't get out much! And do you know what I'm talking about? If you said old fashioned drinking vinegars, you get a prize! Now, before you wrinkle your nose at the idea, imagine sitting down at the end of a hard day and enjoying this:

Instead of letting plain old lemon or lime juice do the acidic lifting in my cocktails, summer tends to have me spiking mine with a wide variety of shrubs. I've made strawberry-balsamic-peppercorn, peach-champagne-ginger, and plum-apple-mint … all lovely. But my favorite combines two flavor kings:

Blackberries (or, if you happen to be lucky enough, mulberries) pair absolutely beautifully with sage. In the earlier summer, my daughter and I would pick jars of mulberries and make popsicles with half of them and shrubs with the other half. The sage growing happily on my patio found itself also called into service. A week or two later, I had a fantastic, sweet, tangy addition to my favorite summer cocktails. Now, if you have just a few items on hand, you can too!

Blackberry-Sage Shrub

  • 1 cup very ripe blackberries (or, you're lucky enough, mulberries!)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1-2 T. coarsely chopped (or just crushed) sage leaves
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar (or, if you're feeling fancy, champagne vinegar)

In a clean mason jar, combine your clean berries and sugar. Stir them to combine and break up the berries a bit. Allow the mixture to rest in the refrigerator for at least 24 and up to 48 hours to allow the juices to render from the berries.

Add the remaining ingredients to the mason jar, seal with a tight lid, shake to combine, and allow to rest in the refrigerator for 7 to 14 days to encourage the flavors to blend. Strain the solids out of the mixture and place the vinegar (shrub) in a clean bottle. You may wish to double or even triple strain the shrub with cheesecloth or finer filters to remove any particulate.

Use the shrub in place of lemon or lime juice or other acidic ingredients in your favorite cocktails and iced beverages. Start with small amounts and adjust according to your tastes.

  • Yields: About 1 1/2 cups
  • Preparation Time: Several days