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Gastronomy Glossary: Shrubs

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The popularity of vintage mixology has brought with it the rise of a classic old-fashioned drink: the shrub. In its simplest form, shrubs are a mixture of fruit juice, sugar, and vinegar. While sipping on vinegar might not sound particularly appetizing, the pungency usually associated with vinegars is delightfully balanced by the fruit and sweetener in shrubs. The modern shrub can be used as the key ingredient in a refreshing cocktail, or to elevate a non-alcoholic spritzer.

Randy Paragary recently got into making shrubs at home with his son, Sam. This led to a collaboration with Brad Peters, beverage director for Paragary Restaurant Group, to add the ‘Randy’s Market Shrub’ to Paragary’s cocktail menu. Randy and Brad decided making shrubs for Paragary’s would be a great way to allow diners to enjoy various fruits long after their prime season.

The versatility of ingredients allows for endless combinations depending on what is in season and the desired flavor profile. Pretty much any fruit may be used, and the riper, the better. Typically, refined cane sugar is the easiest sweetener to use, but it is not unheard of to experiment with other sweeteners like honey, agave nectar, or molasses. The type of vinegar used can vary depending on the flavor profile it will be paired with. More neutral varietals such as apple-cider vinegar or white-wine vinegar are more commonly used, however don’t discount more distinct vinegars like sherry, rice wine, or even balsamic.

There are a few methods for preparing shrubs, however Randy and Brad’s preferred process is the cold method. The process will vary depending on the fruit being used and the desired flavor profile.
Using the cold technique, chopped fruit is combined with sugar and left covered in a refrigerator for several days, creating a juice. The fruit is strained from the juice and vinegar is added. This preparation is preferred to the hot method because of its enhanced flavor.

“A good rule of thumb is that if you can bake it, the hot method might be better. Spices and fruits like apples, peaches, and mulberry can be made using the hot method,” explained Brad Peters. “Tomatoes could go either way, but for our recent tomato shrub, we used the cold method.”

Whether you venture out on your own shrub experiment, or visit Paragary’s for Randy’s latest seasonal flavor, sipping a shrub drink should definitely be on your cocktail bucket list. Full of charm and endless variety, shrubs have made a comeback and seem to be here to stay.