You may know what a shrub is. You may not know what a shrub it. I kind of knew what a shrub was but not well enough to explain it (kind of like, “Oh, yes, I know what a shrub is, but you tell me what YOU think a shrub is?”. So then I set out to figure it out.
Shrubs were originally used in Colonial times as a means of preserving fruit before there was refrigeration, and then usually the mixture was used to create beverages. The word “sharab” is Arabic for drink, and this technique was probably started in the Middle East.
Shrubs were technically alcoholic in the olden days, but now the word has kind of come to mean a vinegar and sugar based fruit drink, which can be supplemented by all kinds of additional liquids from water to sparkling water cider to sparkling wine to regular wine to all manners of hootch.
And what I do love about this one is how well it worked as a cocktail and a mocktail (which is always handy, especially if you have kids, or are having a party where you want to offer those two options).
And interestingly as I was beginning my in-depth investigation (well – about 20 minutes of diligent internet searching), I went to the Fancy Foods Show in New York City. The NY Summer Fancy Foods Show is a huge industry convention at the Javits Center filled wall to wall with manufacturers showcasing their wares to retailers, who might be current customers, or potential customers, or media. Anyway, shrubs were kind of all the rage, with shrubs and shrub mixes dotting the aisles. So, we are on trend, people.
I picked cranberries as the star ingredient for my shrub, because I wanted a shrub that would be welcome as a refreshing summer drink, but also a very holiday cocktail or mocktail. I am completely and totally making this for my people on Thanksgiving and will continue shrubbing on through the New Year.
Frozen cranberries make this drink looks absolutely spectacular, and also keep the drink chilled without diluting it, as ice cubes would.
If you use sparkling apple cider, you will have a sweeter, non-alcoholic shrub. If you use sparkling wine, you will have a tarter, alcoholic drink. Both are delicious. I would also recommend dividing the shrub mixture between two pitchers, and then making one pitcher with the cider, and the other with the sparkling wine, and labeling them so people will know which is which. You can also add some sparkling water to either version if you want a lighter drink.
Happy shrubbing everyone. It’s now a verb.
Cranberry Orange Shrub
- 1 cup water
- 2 cups cranberries
- ¾ cup sugar
- Strips of peeled zest from one orange
- ½ cup cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
- Juice of 1 orange
- 1 ounce 2 tablespoons Campari
- 2 bottles sparkling wine or sparkling cider
- 2 cups frozen cranberries
- Place the water ,cranberries, sugar and orange zest in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Reduce the heat and maintain a simmer until the cranberries have burst, about 7 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the vinegar and molasses. Refrigerate overnight, preferably for 24 hours. Strain out the cranberries and orange zest, pressing the solids in a strainer with a spoon to extract all of the liquid.
- Place the frozen cranberries into a large pitcher. Transfer the chilled cranberry liquid to the pitcher and add the orange juice and Campari. Pour in the sparkling beverage of your choice and serve chilled.
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