This January I’ve been having a few weeks without alcohol. Not the full Dry January but limiting booze to just a couple of days all month to make up for December’s excesses. At the top of my list of boozeless beverages is the Shrub: a fruity cocktail made from vinegar syrup and soda. To the uninitiated, drinking vinegar might sound strange, but although it’s very diluted it provides enough of an acidic snap to jolt you into life in much the same way as alcohol does.
I’ve previously bought ready made shrubs but they’re easy enough to make, so this time around I raided the freezer for some home grown rhubarb to set about making my own. The results are astonishingly good and I’m now itching to pickle more flavour combinations in further Shurb experimentation. But, until then, here’s the rhubarb and ginger recipe I settled on…
Rhubarb & Ginger Shrub Recipe
To make a Shrub you first need to make the vinegar syrup, which acts as a concentrate (much like a bottle of squash concentrate) to be diluted with soda water.
For this I used a 3:3:2 ratio of vinegar, fruit and sugar:
300g cider vinegar
200g white sugar
A small thumb sized piece of fresh ginger
1 First up, I sterilised a glass preserving jar. Vinegar should see off most bacteria but it’s still worth keeping your storage vessel sterilised for other nasties that vinegar might be less fearful of its acidic vengeance. To do this I washed the container in hot, soapy water then dried it in the oven on a low heat for 20 minutes – this also means the jar is hot when it’s time to add the hot vinegar, which will prevent the glass from cracking.
2 While the jar is in the oven put the cider vinegar in a pan and heat until it just reaches boiling point. Tip in the sugar and stir to dissolve before adding chopped rhubarb and ginger diced into tiny pieces.
3 Pour everything into the sterilised jar, seal the lid and set aside. I left mine for four days which seemed long enough to get most of the flavour from the ingredients and allow them to start mellowing with the cider vinegar.
4 Strain the vinegary liquid into a sterilised bottle, gently squeezing out the goodness, and store in the fridge.* It’s probably best to use it within a couple of weeks.
5 To make a shrub simply pour some syrup into a glass (as you would with squash – a tablespoon or two should do the trick) and top with cold soda water. Sup slowly and wonder what the fuss with alcohol** is all about…
*You could probably use the left over solid rhubarb and ginger in a chutney
**Although the syrup would probably work well in a few alcohol-based cocktails too. Suggestions please.