Shrubs and Drinking Vinegars

These beverages are popping up all over since I had my first shrub back in July at a restaurant in Philadelphia.  I’m hearing about them on the news, in magazines and  saw them offered at a local restaurant. Shrubs appear to be very popular right now as mixologists add liquor to their own versions of this classic American drink.

In 2011 American restaurants and bars started to serve these vinegar-based shrub drinks. The acidity of the shrub makes it well suited as an aperitif or used as an alternative to bitters. They are also a fresh alternative to sodas.


Then there are the drinking vinegars – beverages to benefit your digestive system.  Recently on GMA (Good Morning America) they talked about apple cider vinegar and if it is good for you. In moderation, yes but due to its acidity it would not be good to consume too much – a tsp. in a glass of water.

I don’t recommend “drinking vinegars” that I found at Whole Foods. As soon as I put my mouth to the glass I was immediately turned off and barely sipped it.  The ingredients were extremely strong and not very appealing at all.

For example the strawberry balsamic contains water, strawberry, apple cider vinegar, lime, balsamic vinegar, coconut nectar, vegan probiotics and stevia. I don’t care how good it is for my gut and that it contains 4 billion CFUs of Vegan Probiotics per 13.5 oz. bottle! Needless to say these drinking vinegars are not for me. Just thought I would give them a try…

I know, the first thing that may come to your mind when you hear the word “shrubs” are small to medium sized bushes that have multiple woody stems above the ground and are shorter than trees. However, there is another definition of this word and that is it was a popular beverage first during Colonial times.

So, I am mainly referring to the shrubs which were consumed in early American history. Originally, a raspberry shrub was a syrup of citrus and sugar blended with either brandy or rum and served aboard trading ships and naval vessels to help prevent scurvy. Vinegar was used as an alternative to citrus juices.

A raspberry vinegar is a fruited, non-alcoholic vinegar beverage that was used to quench one’s thirst.

By the mid-1800’s the word shrub was used to describe both beverages.

Raspberry vinegar is made differently than raspberry shrub syrups. I followed the cold process to make one syrup where you first add the sugar to the raspberries.

The second recipe I tried from 1900 (see recipe below) is made by adding the vinegar first to the raspberries, strain  and add sugar. Then it is cooked for about 15 minutes – this is delicious!!!

I had my first shrub at The City Tavern in Philadelphia during an evening reunion with 19 family members. It was a very refreshing and non-alcoholic drink that was served with “first plates” or what we call  appetizers today.  Shrubs are known to stimulate the appetite which was evident as we devoured a number of these delicious offerings. This beverage can also cure a “tummy ache” which some of us felt after eating so much good food

This was my first attempt at making a shrub to use in a vinaigrette. See Raspberry Shrub Vinaigrette 

I also used the shrub syrup to make a refreshing cocktail.

The possible ingredients:

sweetener: superfine, demeeara, granulated or brown sugar, maple syrup, honey

vinegar: white, red wine, apple cider, balsamic, rice, champagne or any number of flavored vinegar

fruit/vegetables: just about anything can be used – overripe fruits are the best as the concentration of sugar is the highest – get the best quality

alcohol: rum, brandy, Prosecco

How to Make Superfine Sugar:

This type of sugar is often hard to find but there is a quick and easy way to make your own using granulated sugar.  Add the sugar you need in a recipe plus a couple of tablespoons more just in case to a food processor. Process for 1 to 2 minutes until the sugar feels like sand. You can barely see the difference in the picture below.


The more I started to research shrubs and vinegars the more information I found. I am not an expert on the subject by any means. There are a number of great resources; cookbooks, magazines and of course the internet if you want to pursue the history of this beverage and even make your own. There are lots of recipes to choose from and I highly recommend making your own!


This very simple recipe appeared in The Times in an article titled “Women Here and There – Their Frills and Fancies.” It was posted by reporter Amanda Hesser (founder of Food 52) on July 28, 2010. It also appears in The New York Times Cookbook by Amanda. I have slightly adapted the 1900 raspberry vinegar recipe. Regardless, the following is the recipe to make a very refreshing base for a delicious beverage that is definitely a thirst quencher.

Raspberry Vinegar

  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1-1/2 quarts raspberries (about 6 cups)
  • I made a superfine sugar (for every cup of juice add 1-1/4 cups plus 1 tbsp. sugar)
  • fresh raspberries and fresh mint sprigs to garnish (I added)

Combine the vinegar and raspberries. Cover and let macerate for 3 days.

Mash the raspberries, then strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth. Add 1-1/4 cups plus 1 tbsp. sugar to every cup of juice.

Combine the juice and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Allow to cool; then refrigerate for up to 3 months. It becomes thick and syrupy and smells wonderful! I have also seen recipes that say 6 months – just taste and look at the syrup and decide.

Add the shrub syrup depending on the size of your glass and to your taste. Below is a 12 oz. tumbler and I added 3-4 tsp. of this thick syrup on top of lots of ice and finished with club soda; stir well. You could also add water, sparkling water, Prosecco, rum or brandy.

This beverage is indeed refreshing and I can see why Amanda enjoyed this drink so much.

Recipe by

Linking to Fiesta Friday #187.

The superfine sugar, juice and vinegar boiling down to make a delicious shrub syrup! This recipe is a keeper.


The syrup is thick after cooking…

22 thoughts on “Shrubs and Drinking Vinegars

  1. An extremely informative post Judi. Thanks for enlightening us all on these “shrubs”. I must say I’ve never tried the drink you mentioned above, but I have tried to sip the ACV in a glass of water, and wow! it’s just so tart and off putting. I don’t think I will ever try that again. But surely the recipe you share is something I’m curious about.


    • Thank you Loretta! Those drinking vinegars are awful and expensive too. The recipe I have included to make your own syrup is really good and not artificial tasting. Just fruit, vinegar and sugar. Then you can top it with club soda or sparkling water and add a dash of alcohol if you want. I like it just as a non-alcoholic drink.


  2. This looks like the freshest summer drink!
    As for prepared drinking vinegar, it seems that once an humble ingredient it declared healthy, there will always be someone who tries to benefit from it commercially, and using it in an extreme way. We’re definitely better off with homemade drinks like you have here.


    • You’re welcome Liz. Since I had my first shrub I’m hearing a lot about them too. Simple is the best like the recipe I provided. You don’t need all of those fancy ingredients/herbs, etc. Like you said only 3 ingredients and it keeps well in the refrigerator a long time. It’s a good beverage 🙂


  3. Wow, I have never heard of these. I have seen that Suja drink before though. I did not know they were called Shrubs. The only thing I can think that would be comparable would be kombucha? I drink that a lot. Does it taste similar to that?


    • Sorry for the confusion but if you read my post I say that raspberry vinegar (not drinking vinegars) are referred to as shrubs. They are very different but both are vinegar based. Drinking vinegars (to me) are awful and contain numerous so-called healthy ingredients (I describe the ingredients in the strawberry version). Raspberry vinegar is basically fruit, vinegar, sugar and home made – any fruit can be used and often other simple ingredients such as herbs are added. Bars add liquor and are very popular. Personally, I like Prosecco. Kombucha are tea based and said to have health benefits – I have never tried one. It was fun experimenting but I will stick with my simple recipe I have provided 🙂


      • After I re-read that again it made more sense to me. I knew Kombucha was tea based but I was meaning it has a strong vinegar taste and is naturally carbonated. What you have made does sound good though. Would like to give it a try. Thanks for sharing.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Judy, Nice to meet you in the journey of blogging through Fiesta Friday. Very nice post and awesome raspberry drink, you have really explained in detail. I liked the idea of possible ingredients.Let us enjoy co-hosting FF.


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