Honey Blackberry Shrub

With the summery weather making us spend lots of time outside by our pool, any cocktail we can make without taking away pool time is a win for us.  We were looking for some good drinks to serve by the pool for the inevitable pool party we will have this summer and were looking at punches.  A beverage called a shrub kept coming up in our searches, and being the curious cocktail folks that we are, we decided to try one out and educate ourselves in the mean time.  Afterall, why shouldn’t drinking involve a bit of education at the same time?

While shrubs were found in Europe during the 1600s and 1700s, the shrub came into its own in colonial America when colonists found the sweltering American summers quickly spoiled fresh fruits and vegetables and needed a good way to preserve the fruit.  Vinegar and sugar were two plentiful items in colonial America, so a mixture of vinegar and sugar was poured over fresh fruit and allowed to infuse the fruit to preserve it.   After removing the fruit, the remaining liquids could be mixed with rum or brandy (another common American beverage) and the resulting vinegar drink was found to be refreshing, as the vinegar was said to add a cooling effect to the drink. Vinegar based drinks have a long record of being used in hot climates, even making an appearance in the Bible when Ruth has vinegar drink to cool off after working in the fields!

Another factor in the popularity of shrubs came about with the ability to mask the favor of sea water spoiled alcohol. When the Sugar Act of 1764 was passed and it became hard to import the sugars and rum from the Caribbean, smugglers routinely had to avoid English naval patrols.  Smugglers resorted to sinking barrels of rum for retrieval after patrols had passed.  Often times, water would penetrate the barrels and foul the alcoholic contents, but being resourceful entrepreneurs, smugglers found a way to save the rum by mixing in the infused vinegar and sugars and making a nice drink.

Shrub syrups are often made by heating the fruit with sugar and letting it macerate with vinegar. For the purposes of our cocktails, we decided to go with a cold version of the shrub.  Honey replaces the usual sugar here, and the richer sweetness of the honey was especially nice with our whiskey. The longer your shrub macerates, the more the flavors will meld together, mellowing the tartness of the vinegar.  Making it ahead also means there’s no sweat when it’s cocktail hour!  This recipe is also great for parties as you can make it ahead and serve in a large pitcher to leave more time with the guests!

For the Shrub:
1 cup blackberries
1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup water

Combine all above and let sit overnight or up to 7 days in the fridge.

For the Cocktail:
8 ounces bourbon or fine whiskey
6 large sprigs mint
4 cups ice
2 cups seltzer, chilled

Take ½ of shrub mixture and put in a pitcher, then add cocktail ingredients. Mix. Serve. Makes 4 cocktails.



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