May 22, 2020
by Peter D. Posert
I asked, incredulous, when the proprietor Laura asked me, “Try my SHRUB?” I’m usually game when it comes to new foods, so I thought, ok, I’ll try it. Do you try samples at the grocery or out tasting? I’m usually pretty curious, but a drink called “Shrub?” It sounded pretty weird. The gang, Anne, Mara, Lisa and I, were at the quirky and fun Sonoma Aperitif tasting room in Penngrove on a sunny day last summer when the interchange took place. It was explained to us that shrubs are old vinegar based drinks with a long history in the olden days of the 17th and 18th century. So we tried it and… we were spectacularly blown away with Lemon shrub! It was utterly delicious. We have all been making shrubs at home ever since. You should too. Here’s why.
There isn’t a better sipping drink around.
Shrubs, also known as “drinking vinegars,” are swiftly gaining in popularity in high-end bars as a base for fancy drinks or just mixed with a club soda or sparkling water. You can also just have them for a healthy and natural pick-me-up which is what I do with a spoonful most afternoons. Shrubs are a mix of vinegar, fruits, sugars and often an herb or some kind of tasty flavor. When they are in balance they carry savory, tart, sweet and complex tones that run across the palette with stronger flavors than the most brilliant local wine, but without the alcohol.
There are three Shrub producers in Sonoma County if you want to explore them commercially. The incredible syrup producers down in Sonoma city, Sonoma Syrups, makes a dazzling lemon vanilla based drinking vinegar. Sonoma Aperitif in Penngrove was the original impetus for the story, but the business can be tricky to get a hold of these days - we wish them well though.
Then there is our loving favorites, Little Apple Treats of Sebastopol, producers of 15 or so utterly unique shrubs! Little Apple treats are the masters of the craft, shipping Sonoma County grown shrubs all over the country.
Few foods are as mouthwateringly delicious. They are simple and fun to make, too. Here’s the deal:
The traditional shrub mixture is 1 part fruit, 1 part vinegar, 1 part sugar.
By playing around with the proportions, it’s easy and fun to find your own sugar/vinegar (sweet/sour) balance.
Some of my recipes are below. The proportions below should be taken with a grain of salt and some leeway as the strength of these ingredients can vary wildly from cupboard to cupboard. I’m encouraging you to add a little more of this or a little less of that to suit your taste.
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