Just to get the joke out of the way at the beginning - a shrub isn't just a bush! Originally used as a way of preserving fruit in a time when refrigeration wasn't an option, a shrub is a sweet-tart syrup made from fruit, sugar, and vinegar that has stayed relevant by gaining popularity in the craft cocktail world. They can be made with just about any fruit you can think of, and when mixed with soda water they make a delicious, refreshing drink that's perfect for a steamy summer day. Adding alcohol is optional, but their wonderful balance of sweet and sour flavors make them an excellent one-stop mixer.
Despite this season's late frost, I was still able to grab a bag of beautiful, perfectly ripe black cherries from White Buffalo Farm at last weeks farmers' market. What wasn't immediately demolished by the friends who were staying at my house was cooked down into a deeply flavorful, beautifully deep red shrub.
Making these lovely and delicious syrups is incredibly easy (though if you're using cherries, I do recommend a cherry pitter, which would have made my life a lot easier) and come together quickly. They're really more of a ratio than a recipe - and 1:1:1:1 ratio at that. One cup sugar, one pound of fruit, one cup of water, and one cup of vinegar. While I used cherries, you can really throw in whatever fruit you have on hand - and since the fruit is getting cooked, it's a great use for anything that's gotten a tad bit bruised. My favorite vinegar to use is apple cider, but red or white wine vinegar works well, too. Avoid using anything too flavorful or too bland, as it will either overwhelm the fruit or add little other than harsh acidity to your shrub.
I mixed a splash of my black cherry shrub with seltzer, a little lime juice, and some vodka from the Telluride Distillery. Whisky or a floral gin would also be a great pairing. They're kid-friendly and just as delicious without the alcohol, though. Happy shrubbing!
Black Cherry Shrub
1lb black cherries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1. Pit and quarter your cherries, and set aside. Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan and heat on medium until sugar is dissolved.
2. Lower heat to low and add your cherries. Simmer, stirring frequently, until the liquid has turned dark red and the cherries are starting to get mushy (for me, this took about 10-15 minutes).
3. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and add vinegar. Strain the solid fruit from the mixture and pour into a jar or bottle. Let cool before storing in the refrigerator.