Shrubs: The Reason You Should Be Drinking Vinegar This Summer.
The old-fashioned drinking vinegars are having a moment in summery beverages. Here’s where to get in on the trend.
Drinking vinegars may not be your first thought when searching for a mid-afternoon refresher, but if you take a page from local bars, the beverages—known as shrubs—should be on your radar. In Colonial, pre-refrigerator days, fruits like strawberries and raspberries were mixed with vinegar and sugar so they could be preserved later as a syrup. The addition of alcohol could extend the syrup shelf-life even longer (and just so happened to taste great).
And now, the vintage vinegar beverage is rising to popularity again as bartenders strive to create new cocktails and reduce kitchen waste. The pleasant result? A rejuvenating drink that holds a delicate balance of sweet and savory. Ahead, find out where you can experience the revival of this historical drink. —by Alyssa DeGeorge
1. Summer Cup, $11; ArtBar
Royal Sonesta Hotel Boston, 40 Edwin Land Boulevard, Cambridge, 617-806-4122, artbarcambridge.com
ArtBar uses the cold method of creating shrubs to keep the flavors bright in a combination of strawberry, mint, and white balsamic vinegar. To complete the summer cup, bartender Elizabeth Powell adds Martin Millers gin and sparkling wine. The crew at ArtBar also offers a non-alcoholic take on shrub in a drink they call “Pressure,” so you can get a full shrub experience without getting buzzed.
2. Rum Lullaby, $9; West Side Lounge
1680 Mass Ave, Cambridge, 617-441-5566, westsidelounge.com
At West Side Lounge, the homemade strawberry-basil shrub gets a boost from Clement Rhum Agricole, Carpano Antica vermouth, dry vermouth and a dash of lime. According to general manager Jennifer Gochis, the addition of the shrub has been popular with bar patrons. “It gives the drinks a little something extra,” she says.
3. Sprezzatura, $7; Backbar
9 Sanborn Court, Union Square, Somerville, 617-718-0249, backbarunion.com
With a mix of orange shrub, aperol, tequila and sweet vermouth, Backbar bar manager Sam Treadway compares the vinegar in this drink to a pinch of salt on a plate of food. “You don’t want to taste salt, but you want to allow the other flavors to kind of pop, and that’s exactly what vinegar does. It adds a little bit of that extra roundness to the mouth,” he says. Treadway still takes advantage of shrub’s original purpose in an effort to reduce waste at Journeyman. When the kitchen has too much of a perishable product, he pounces at the opportunity to be inventive, which has led to strawberry-mint and rose-flavored shrubs.
4. Pok Pok Som Pomegranate, $1; Clover Food Lab HSQ
7 Holyoke St., Cambridge, cloverfoodlab.com
Clover owner Ayr Muir discovered Pok Pok Som drinking vinegars at buzzy Thai restaurant Pok Pok when on a trip to Portland, OR. When Pok Pok opened an outpost in Brooklyn, Muir decided it was time to try the restaurant’s vinegar product out on Clover customers, with a fizzy, booze-free pomegranate version. The drinks have been a hit so far, Muir says, and he hopes his team can eventually develop their own vinegars.
5. Tait Farm Shrub in Apple, Cherry, Cranberry, Ginger, Lemon, Lime, Raspberry or Strawberry, $10; The Boston Shaker
69 Holland St. Somerville, 617-718-2999, thebostonshaker.com
Want to make your own at home? Stop by The Boston Shaker to pick up a traditionally made shrub from Tait Farm in Pennsylvania, ready to mix with sparkling water. Owner Adam Lantheaume assures apprehensive customers that the vinegar flavor is not as strong as what might be expected. “The same way you would have lemon or lime – that sharp flavor – vinegar falls in that category. You get this something strong on the back of your palate,” he said. “If you’re craving something different, this is a great something different to experiment with.”
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