No, we're not talking about plants. A shrub is a drink that's made by fermenting fruit or vegetables with sugar and vinegar. Basically, if it grows and it's edible, you can make a shrub out of it with a little time. The result is a concentrated flavored vinegar of sorts that can be enjoyed in small sips on its own, as a sour shot of flavor in a cocktail or mixed into your favorite sparkling water for a refreshing afternoon drink. Plus, shrubs are most commonly used to help improve digestive health. Due to the promotion of shrubs by some of the nation's best bartenders, you're also likely to find craft cocktails laced with them at almost any hip bar.
What’s a Shrub?
While shrubs may seem like the new kid on the block, they're actually a trend that's coming back around. A shrub — derived from the Arabic word "sharāb," which means "to drink" — is actually a very old drink. People have been using them in tonics and cordials for hundreds of years in parts of Asia and Europe for its medicinal properties and ability to promote gut health.
Shrubs are often referred to as "drinking vinegars" and were commonly consumed in America during the 18th century, since there was no refrigeration. That made shrubs a great way to use fruit scraps and keep the taste of summer produce around long after the season had passed. Another fun fact: Because shrubs were often added to fizzy water during America's colonial period, they are often credited as the precursor to sodas.
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What Are the Health Benefits of Shrubs?
In the same way that kombucha promotes gut health, so do shrubs. Due to the presence of all that good bacteria that's produced by the fermentation process, consuming shrubs can help promote balance inside your belly, giving you a solid boost of enzymes, vitamin D and probiotics — all while balancing the pH levels in your stomach.
But it's not just about gut health when it comes to shrubs. Because shrubs are commonly made with apple cider vinegar, they can also help keep your appetite under control, aid in keeping blood glucose in check, promote weight loss and even help with detoxifying your body — specifically your liver, blood and skin. Shrubs for the win!
Read more: 8 Reasons to Love Apple Cider Vinegar
Can You Drink Too Many Shrubs?
While there are heaps of health benefits to be gained by drinking vinegars, the acidic stuff can be really hard on your esophagus and has also been found to strip the enamel from your teeth. To avoid any of these negative side effects, refrain from drinking your shrubs straight and instead add them to water, juice or — if you're feeling like it's 5 o'clock somewhere — a cocktail. Also, like all things in life, moderation is key.
Can You Make Shrubs at Home?
Yes! Follow this recipe to experiment with making your own shrubs. Mash one cup of your favorite chopped fruits or vegetables in a jar that's been sterilized by soaking in boiling water for 10 minutes. Let all the juices mingle together in the fridge overnight. The next day, add one cup of apple cider vinegar and stir well. Let the jar rest in a cool, dark place for three to 20 days, depending on the potency you're going for: The longer it rests, the stronger and more complex the flavor.
After the resting period, strain the solids from the liquids using a cheesecloth. Discard the solids. The liquid you're left with is your shrub! Add your shrub to some water, seltzer or your favorite cocktail and enjoy! Just remember to keep it in the fridge so it lasts, and make sure to consume within six months.
What Do YOU Think?
Had you heard of shrubs before? Have you ever tried one? Would you make a shrub from scratch at home? Did you know about all the health benefits? Share your favorite recipes and flavors in the comments below!