What Are Shrubs?
A shrub is a drinking vinegar. Ingredients typically include vinegar, fruits, and a sweetener with herbs or spices. Shrubs are used in cocktails and mock-tails and also add versatility in sauces, mixes or as an accent to a variety of foods. The name was derived from the Arabic word “sharab”, meaning “to drink”.
The History of Shrubs
In ancient Rome, “Posca” was a drink which remotely resembled the modern day shrub. It was prepared with acidic wine (a balsamic vinegar), water and spices. Considered the Gatorade of the Roman army, Posca was great for hydration. This drink, with refinements, became popular in Asia Minor in the 15th century. Shortly after, it became popular in England.
Fermented fruits later became an important ingredient of the first shrubs in England and were originally termed “medicinal cordials”. The fruits were preserved by adding sugar into a barrel of fruits, which effectively converted them into a long lasting sweet and tart vinegar. They also gained popularity with smugglers after they learned shrubs could mask alcohol destined to America (while helping avoid alcohol taxation)!
Advances in fruit preservation carried on into the 16th century Colonial Era. These new, excellent combinations of intense fruit essence and tart acidity become very popular. As well, these adaptations became part of the evolving shrub.
Later in the 17th century, the foundation of the American shrub came into existence. The vinegar base was an advancement over fermenting fruit with sugar in barrels. This effectively became the birth of American “drinking” shrubs which became highly popular in America.
Strengthen Your Immunity
Shrubs contain prebiotics and probiotics, aid in digestion and help strengthen your immune system. Because 70% of your immune system is in your gut, it’s not hard to see why they were originally called medicinal cordials.
A Cyser Vinegar Base
There are a variety of vinegar types that can be used for shrubs. Built by Bees chose a unique vinegar base called a cyser vinegar. Cyser vinegars are made from both honey mead and fermented apple cider. Once honey ferments, it becomes a mead. When apples ferment, they become a “hard” apple cider. Both are alcohols. When these fermentations are combined, they might have an ABV (alcohol by volume) between 7% – 11%. Once fermented, the alcohol can then be acidified into a vinegar by bacteria (created from yeast and air). This process of converting alcohol into a vinegar also converts ABV into acidity. Once alcohol becomes a vinegar, it is acidic and cannot revert to an alcohol. The result is a tasty vinegar, ideally at or below 6% acidity.
While most modern day shrubs use raw sugar, Built by Bees chose raw honey over sugar. Through taste tests and trial and error, this was a learned process. It was commonly agreed that honey tastes better, is healthier for you and is more versatile than sugar. For that reason, it was chosen because it was far better, but definitely not cheaper!
Today, shrubs are used in mixed drinks as cocktails or in carbonated waters as mock-tails (alcohol free). They’re also used to make smoothies, mix into desserts or used as accents and dressings on a variety of foods. Because the ingredients are preserved by vinegar and have a high concentration of flavor and fruitiness, they can be stored without refrigeration. Chilled shrubs, however, are refreshing and often preferred. When added to drinks, shrubs behave similar to a citrus by providing a sweet and tart element. Shrubs are also commonly used in punches – either on their own or as a brandy or rum mix.
Built by Bees uses a cold-press technique and does not heat ingredients. This process maintains bright, zesty flavors and avoids heat-based damage. Shrubs make a perfect pick-me-up anytime of day!
To learn more about or purchase Built by Bees honey shrubs, please visit our Honey Shrubs section.