Launch into the days of summer with a refreshing drink to hydrate, refresh and cool off.
This is one of my favorite summer beverages and it makes use of the season’s sweet strawberries. It’s called a shrub, or a tonic, which is a syrup composed of fruit, sugar and vinegar. Also known as drinking vinegar, shrubs are an old-fashioned method of preserving fruit by mixing soft, ripe produce with vinegar and sugar, then letting the mixture sit for a few days to mingle and macerate before straining out the solids.
Nowadays, shrubs are enjoying a resurgence, back in vogue as a cleansing refreshment, as well as a flavorful syrup for cocktails. The combinations are numerous and open to creative inspiration, bearing in mind a few rules of thumb: Use ripe, untreated, soft fruit such as berries and stone fruit at the peak of season, and wash thoroughly. Blend with a fruity vinegar, such as apple cider or wine vinegar. Experiment with adding fresh herbs, such as thyme, basil, mint and rosemary, which add herbaceous and floral complements to the fruit.
Serve with sparkling water as a refreshing soda, or add a splash to cocktails for a nice kick.
Total Time: 1 to 2 days
Yield: Makes 2 cups syrup
- 1 pound strawberries, hulled and quartered
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 10 cracked peppercorns
- 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1. Combine the strawberries, sugar and peppercorns in a bowl. (If you prefer a sweeter syrup, you can increase the amount of sugar to 1 1/2 cups.) Mix to thoroughly combine. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 days, stirring occasionally.
2. Pour the syrup through a fine meshed sieve into a bowl, pressing down on the fruit to extract all of the juice. Discard the strawberries. Scrape any remaining sugar into the syrup. Whisk the vinegars into the syrup. Pour the syrup into a clean glass jar and refrigerate indefinitely. The sharpness will mellow with time.
3. To serve, combine 1 part shrub and 2 to 3 parts water or sparkling water in a glass with a squeeze of lime.
4. For a cocktail, substitute prosecco for the sparkling water. Or go big and blend 1 part shrub to 1 part reposado tequila to 2 parts sparkling water and a good squeeze of lime.
Lynda Balslev is an award-winning food and wine writer, cookbook author and recipe developer. She also authors the blog TasteFood, a compilation of more than 600 original recipes, photos and stories. More of her recipes can be found at suntimes.com/taste.