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A history of cocktail shrubs: the flavour enhancing syrup used in drinks

Stories

5-minute read

A history of cocktail shrubs: the flavour enhancing syrup used in drinks

We like to approach each Seedlip cocktail as a chef approaches a plate of food, by pairing great ingredients in interesting ways to produce fantastic flavours. Shrubs are a mix of culinary history, and traditional skill that has seen a resurgence in recent years.

They’re easy to make, help reduce food waste and can add depth of flavour to your non-alcoholic cocktails. It’s also a great way make the most of seasonal fruit and vegetables.







With a little bit of preparation and planning, you can use shrubs to make really vibrant non-alcoholic cocktails, or long and refreshing drinks by mixing Seedlip with a homemade shrub and topping it up with soda.

Making shrubs is all about experimenting with ingredients and discovering new flavour combinations. We’ve included a few of our favourites below.

First, what are Shrubs?

In a nutshell, shrubs are a vintage mixer combining plants, sugar and vinegar. They offer a change from the usual Lemons and Limes used to add acidity to a drink but they are a world away from sugary, over-sweet juices.

The acidulation in shrubs, which comes from the addition of vinegar, has a tartness that quenches your thirst by stimulating salivation. You’re mouth fills with fluid, and you feel hydrated. Vinegar also has impressive preserving properties allowing shrubs to be stored for long periods of time in the fridge.

There are many, many options when it comes to shrub recipes. Our shrubs are based on this simple formula:

Plant + Vinegar + Sugar + Time = Shrub

We add an equal measure of each, a ratio of 1:1:1, in a Mason jar or a jam jar, shake it up, and then leave it for a couple of days or sometimes even a week to ferment.

This ratio is a great place to start if you’re making shrubs for the first time, but the fun in creating shrubs is experimentation. Have a play and find a ratio that suits your palate.

Shrub portrait

History

Although shrubs seem new, fresh and modern, they are in fact a very old thing.

As well as being used to preserve gluts of fruit and vegetables out of season, vinegar has been used for centuries to make water, or unpalatable spirits, more drinkable. The Victorians used ‘fruit vinegars’ in the same way we would enjoy a cordial, and a version of a shrub was used to fight the onslaught of scurvy that plagued the British Navy in the 18th century. When prohibition took place in the US, shrubs became the popular alternative to alcoholic drinks.

Shrubs fell out of favour in the mid-late 20th century when refrigeration reduced the need to store ingredients, and sugary soft drinks like Coca Cola became increasingly popular.

Craft cocktails resurrected shrubs over a decade ago. The creativity and craftmanship involved making the cocktails encouraged bartenders to experiment and shrubs found themselves being used once again, but this time behind some of the world’s best bars.

Trio Lifestyle

Flavour Pairings

If you have a bottle of Seedlip at home, and you’d like to have a go at making a shrub to pair with it, here are some examples of ingredients that work well with each of the three Seedlip flavours.

Seedlip Spice 94
Grapefruit, Pineapple, Vanilla, Maple, Cinnamon, Coffee

Seedlip Garden 108
Apple, Rhubarb, Basil, Cucumber, Elderflower, Lime

Seedlip Grove 42
Peanut, Carrot, Barley, Ginger, Honey, Apricot

SHRUB RECIPES

We’ve listed a few of our favourite combinations below as inspiration to help you get started, but please do experiment and share your creations on social @seedlipdrinks.

Pea

200g of Peas
1x Cup of Apple cider vinegar
1x Cup of white sugar

Mush Peas. Add all ingredients into a jar and muddle. Leave overnight. Strain & bottle.

Click here for the Mr McGregor recipe, which uses a Pea shrub.

Fennel & Mangetout

200g Mangetout
200g Fennel
1x Cup of white sugar
1x Cup of Apple cider vinegar

Slice up all ingredients, then add them into a jar and muddle. Leave overnight. Strain & bottle.

Garden Mr Mcgregor

Peach

3x Peaches
1x Cup of Apple cider vinegar
1x Cup of white sugar

Finely slice Peaches. Add all ingredients into a jar and muddle. Leave overnight. Strain & bottle.

Raspberry

1x Punnet of Raspberries
1x Cup of Apple cider vinegar
1x Cup of white sugar

Add all ingredients into a jar and muddle. Leave overnight. Strain & bottle

Garden Watermelon Sour

Basil & Watermelon

1x Small Watermelon
Handful of Basil leaves
1x Cup of Apple cider vinegar
1x Cup of white sugar

Add all ingredients into a jar and muddle. Leave overnight. Strain & bottle.

Click here for the Watermelon Sour recipe, which uses a Basil & Watermelon shrub.