Make A Fruit Shrub Syrup And Drink Like An Ancient Warrior

Despite having a name that sounds more like a plant, fruit shrub is a traditional beverage that dates back centuries. It is a type of fruit-infused vinegar syrup made, as you might have guessed, by combining fruit, sugar, and vinegar. Fruit shrubs have a fascinating history and have been enjoyed in various cultures throughout time.

Drinking mixture of vinegar and water has a long history. During the era of Roman empire, their legendarily efficient military was provided with a drink called posca. Made with wine vinegar and water alongside other possible ingredients such as herbs and salt, posca's acidity and mild alcohol content helped kill harmful organisms in the water used to dilute it — useful in a time before proper filtering or sanitation. It was a popular drink among the ancient Romans, and its consumption continued well into the Middle Ages, as the recipes of the drink were mentioned in Byzantine medical texts. Soldiers and sailors partook in shrubs since it was believed that consuming vinegar would avoid scurvy — although modern science disproved that assumption. Shrubs, similar to things like apple cider vinegar, may also be considered hydrating (per Holland and Barrett), so drinking shrubs is a nice way to up your daily water content in a way ancient Roman warriors likely did.

Making a fruit shrub

To make a fruit shrub, start by selecting ripe fruits, such as berries, peaches, or citrus. Wash and prepare the fruit, removing any stems, seeds, or pits. Dice up the produce and place them inside a container that is freshly sanitized to prevent harmful bacterial growth. Crush the fruit pieces to release their juices.

Next, prepare the vinegar by heating it in a pan until just under boiling temperature. Pour the vinegar into the container, seal, and let it cool completely. Store the vinegar and fruit mixture in a cool dark place — such as a refrigerator — until the desired flavor is achieved, up to four weeks. Once the vinegar mixture is ready, strain the fruit solids from the liquid, and combine the vinegar with sugar. Bring it to a boil and let the sugar dissolve completely, then let it cool down. Store the result in a sanitized container.

Alternatively, you can make a shrub by first adding seeded and chopped fruit into sugar and then crushing them to release their juices to create a syrup. Add vinegar and stir to dissolve the sugar and store it in the fridge to let the flavors meld and mature. When ready, strain and remove the solids and pour the result into a non-reactive jar.

Ways to enjoy fruit shrubs

Fruit shrubs can be used in a variety of ways. The most common use is as a refreshing and flavorful beverage. Simply mix one part shrub syrup with two or three parts of cold water, ginger beer, or sparkling water, and serve over ice. Additionally, shrubs can be used in tropical cocktails as a flavorful mixer — in drinks featuring rum, gin, vodka, or whiskey. The sweet and sour flavors of fruit shrubs add depth and additional oomph to cocktails.

Beyond beverages, fruit shrubs may be used in cooking. They can be incorporated with oil and seasonings to enhance a salad dressing, and mixed into a glaze for grilled meats, giving it a sweet and sour flavor profile. Additionally, a fruit shrub can be drizzled directly on desserts, such as ice cream and sorbets, for extra flavor by bringing an acidic element. The versatility of fruit shrubs allows them to be used in both sweet and savory dishes, elevating the overall flavor profile of various recipes to new (and ancient) heights.