Fine Cooking (October/November 2011)
A couple months ago, we were reading about colonial-era drink recipes. (Yes, we were just doing it for fun.)
Anyway, we came across something called a "shrub," an 18th-century American drink made with sweetened fruit and vinegar (not to be confused with a "switchel," another excellently-named vinegar-infused drink from the same time period).
We were more than a little intrigued. Vinegar? In a cocktail?
When we opened the Thanksgiving issue of Fine Cooking and saw a recipe for a Cranberry-Lime Shrub, we immediately added it to our Fakesgiving menu. We wanted to offer our dinner guests something special as they arrived, something fun to sip on while we finished prepping the meal.
Making the shrub is a snap and very similar to making a thin cranberry sauce by boiling cranberries, sugar and vinegar until the cranberries break down. What you're left with is a very thick concentrate of cranberry and vinegar flavors. According to Fine Cooking, the shrub will keep, refrigerated in a jar, for up to two months, making it an ideal make-ahead drink for Thanksgiving. Just before our guests arrived, we mixed the shrub in a pitcher with seltzer and vodka.
This is an excellent way to kick off a Thanksgiving dinner! The shrub cocktail is light, fizzy and not too sweet. The vinegar gives it an excellent kick and a unique flavor. And thanks to the cranberries, this version is a perfect fit for Thanksgiving dinner. Plus, if you have guests who don't drink, it also works well as a non-alcoholic drink. Our guests loved them!
Fine Cooking points out that the shrub concentrate (without the seltzer or alcohol) could be used in a variety of ways -- in "a pan sauce for chicken or pork, to boost the flavor of a vinaigrette, or to add some zing to whipped cream for a unique dessert topping." Those are great ideas, but we're partial to the libation.
Shrubs are a delicious way to add a little colonial flair to your holiday (and way more enjoyable than wearing a tri-corner hat all day).
Yields about 1 quart shrub, enough for 16 drinks
For the shrub
12 oz. (3 cups) cranberries, rinsed and picked over
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup Champagne or white wine vinegar
1 strip lime zest (1/2 x 2 inches)
For the sparklers
1 cup seltzer, tonic water, or sparkling cider
1 fl. oz. vodka (optional)
Make the shrub
In a 4-quart saucepan, combine the cranberries, sugar, vinegar, and lime zest with 3 cups of water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the cranberries are completely broken down, about 20 minutes. Let cool.
Purée with an immersion blender. Strain through a fine sieve set over a large bowl, pressing hard on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible.
Make the sparklers
Per drink, combine 3 to 4 Tbs. of the chilled shrub with cold seltzer (and vodka, if you like).