Learn how to make a shrub or drinking vinegar. Find out the health benefits of drinking vinegar, and how to use shrubs to add flavor to your beverages.
Shrubs are super popular in the hipster – locavore – foodie community on my PNW island home. After buying a few shrubs and tasting what they had to offer, I naturally decided to brew my own!
Shrub or Switchel?
Shrubs and switchels are ways of turning vinegar into a flavorful beverage. It’s not surprising that our predecessors would keep drinking their homebrewed wine and cider, even after it turned to vinegar. And flavored vinegar is still a delicious addition to cocktails and sparkling water
A switchel is basically a punch made by mixing apple cider vinegar with molasses and other flavors. It is served diluted with water, and is more like an alternative to a sports drink than something you would mix into a cocktail. I included a recipe for an ACV switchel in my cookbook since it was a nice fit with the two recipes for ACV.
A shrub is sweetened vinegar that is infused with fruit, herbs, or spices. Drinking vinegar is similar to bitters or flavor syrups as it’s usually used to flavor mixed drinks. It’s also a nice flavor option for anyone who regularly takes a shot of ACV for their health.
Why Drink Apple Cider Vinegar?
Taking a shot of ACV has been a thing for a long time. Here’s a few reason why you might want to add a shot of homemade drinking vinegar to your diet.
- Flavor is obviously the main reason why shrubs are so popular. They are naturally shelf-stable and don’t require any artificial flavors or preservatives. The perfect way to add a bit of pizzazz into your drink.
- Sugar-free: if you’re brewing your own drinking vinegar, you don’t have to add any sweetener. Feel free to sweeten to taste when mixing it into your drink.
- Digestion: My family has been using vinegar shots to help with digestion since I was a kid. It really only helps if you have a meal that lacks other digestive aids (like raw vegetables or fermented foods).
- Diabetes and weight loss: There is quite a bit of evidence that ACV helps with blood sugar and fat regulation, and can be helpful for weight loss and controlling Type 2 diabetes.
Flavoring your drinking vinegar
The best thing about making drinking vinegar is that you get to flavor it to suit your taste! Really… you can add anything you want to flavor vinegar! However, it’s always good to have a starting place. Here are a few options:
- Berries are the quintessential shrub flavor. They are full of flavor and perfect with ACV. Feel free to choose whatever combination of berries is in season.
- Other fruit options include apple, plum, and citrus fruits. I don’t recommend peach or pear (unless you are using peach or pear brewed vinegar), because their mild flavor doesn’t shine in ACV.
- Fire cider is a drinking vinegar brewed with as many immune-boosting things as you can find. I brew my fire cider without added honey since it’s not necessary for the infusion.
A few of our favorite flavor combinations include:
- Orange and rosemary (use whole oranges, skin included, along with fresh rosemary).
- Blueberry with basil (use whole fruit and fresh herbs).
- Lemon ginger (this is best brewed with fresh lemons and ginger root).
- Apple cinnamon (use juice and powdered cinnamon. Definitely don’t add the sugar until you’re ready to store it in the fridge, otherwise, you’ll just end up making more ACV).
- Watermelon mint (use whole fruit and fresh mint).
Traditional Shrub (Drinking Vinegar)
A shrub or drinking vinegar is a delicious flavor addition to your favorite beverage. They are simple to make and packed with probiotics. See the section above for our favorite flavor combinations.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Total Time: 5 minutes
- Yield: 1 to 2 cups 1x
- Category: Drink
- Method: Infusion
- Diet: Gluten Free
- 1 cup of fresh fruit or juice
- 1/4 cup of other herbs and spices (see above for suggestions)
- 1 cup of raw apple cider vinegar (see notes for alternatives)
- Sugar or another sweetener (optional)
- I don’t recommend adding sugar to your shrub until after it’s finished infusing. Adding sugar may kickstart fermentation causing your fruit to turn into more vinegar rather than a vinegar infusion. Also adding the sugar afterward will give a better sense of how much sugar it needs. It will depend on the sweetness of the added flavors. Not adding sugar until you are ready to serve the shrub also prolongs its shelf-life.
- Pack a 2-cup (pint-sized) jar with 1 cup of fresh fruit, preservative-free fruit juice, or herbs and spices. Pour over 1 cup of ACV. (Use a brand that contains a mother for the probiotic benefits).
- Cap the jar with an air-tight lid. Place the jar in a dark location and let the vinegar infuse for at least 2 days. If the infused flavors are floating (as is the case with certain types of fruit and herbs) stir daily. I recommend straining fruit and herbs after 2 to 4 days. If the flavors aren’t floating (like juice and spices) they can be left to infuse for up to 4 weeks and don’t require stirring.
- When the infusion is finished, strain the vinegar into a clean jar. As long as you haven’t added any sweetener, the vinegar infusion can be stored in a cupboard at room temperature for up to a year. It may develop a vinegar pellicle, which is perfectly fine. (See notes).
- When you’re ready to enjoy your shrub, add sugar to suit your taste. I find that 1/2 cup per batch is sufficient for my taste. Commercial shrubs sometimes use up to the equivalent of 1 1/2 cups of sugar. Stir until the sugar is fully dissolved. At this point, the shrub needs to be stored in the fridge. Once the sugar is added, it will last in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
- Shrubs can be brewed with any live vinegar. ACV is the most commercially available raw vinegar. However, if you make your own wine vinegar or other fruit vinegar, then feel free to use it instead. I don’t recommend using white vinegar as you’ll miss out on all the benefits associated with raw vinegar.
- For more details about what is a vinegar pellicle, check out my post on brewing ACV.
- Serving Size: 1/4 cup
- Calories: 67
- Sugar: 15.6 g (for 1/2 cup added sugar)
- Sodium: 3 mg
- Fat: 0 g
- Carbohydrates: 16.3 g
- Fiber: 0.1 g
- Protein: 0 g
Keywords: traditional, probiotic, sugar-free, fruit, herb