If you’ve never heard of a ‘shrub’ before in the context of mixology, you’re not in the minority. It is a non-alcoholic syrup usually fusing together fruit and aromatics in a concentrated solution of sugar and vinegar. A shrub is the base of such wonderfully refreshing mocktails that, due to the acidity of vinegar and infusion of herbs, have more complexity and interest than most other one-note cocktail substitutes.
I modified this recipe that I saw in Martha Stewart Living (trading the suggested white wine vinegar for regular white vinegar) and the results were excellent. I also have since experimented with another flavor combination of blackberries and basil which came out tasting just like summer. To put the drink together, simply add sparkling soda water to a small amount of shrub base and garnish to your heart’s content! But, if you’re an adult, who am I to say that this beverage wouldn’t benefit from a splash or two of vodka or gin?
1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled (2 cups), plus more for serving
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
3 tarragon sprigs, plus more for serving
Chilled seltzer, for serving (I used ‘Pure’ LaCroix)
In a medium saucepan, combine strawberries with sugar and 1/2 cup water and let stand, stirring a few times for 1 hour (no heat). After 1 hour, cook over medium heat for 5 minutes to dissolve the sugar. Add vinegar and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until simmering. Remove from heat and add tarragon sprigs. Let stand at room temperature (loosely covered by a cloth to deter bugs) for 24 hours. Remove tarragon, strain and discard solids, and transfer to an airtight container. Refrigerate until cold and the mixture will keep in the fridge for up to a month.
To make your drink, select a pretty crystal glass (optional but recommended) and fill with ice. Add 3 tablespoons of shrub base and 6 ounces of sparkling water or seltzer. Use a swizzle stick to lightly stir. Garnish with a tarragon sprig and some fresh strawberries.