What on earth is a rhubarb shrub?!? Well, a shrub is a kind of drinking vinegar that was popular in colonial times. (Although just to confuse you, the term “shrub” may also refer to the cocktail that you make with the drinking vinegar.)
Next question: What on earth is a drinking vinegar?!? It’s a concentrated liquid usually made with fruit, some herbs, sugar, and vinegar. Then you let it ferment for a very short amount of time. Finally, you drink it either in a shot on its own, or with some sparkling water or other addition. People claim that drinking vinegars have digestive benefits; but don’t take our word for it; just enjoy it for its delicious not-too-sweet taste.
Oh – and one more benefit – if you make your shrub out of rhubarb, it turns a brilliant red-pink color.
Making a Rhubarb Shrub
To make a rhubarb shrub, we followed the general guidance described in this Bon Appetit recipe. However, keep in mind that are infinite varieties of ways to make a shrub. You can add different fruits, different herbs, different kinds of vinegar – you name it.
For this shrub, we combined fresh rhubarb and sugar, then let it sit on the counter for a few hours. Then we chilled it in the refrigerator for a day, then added vinegar, mixed it up, and let it chill for a few more days in the fridge.
After a few days, we finally served it (chilled) with some bubbly seltzer water. If you want to make it alcoholic, you can add some white or rose wine. It’s a crisp and refreshing, sweet but not-too-sweet summer refresher.
Rhubarb Shrub Cocktail Recipe
Rhubarb Shrub Cocktail
A bubbly cocktail made with a rhubarb shrub (drinking vinegar).
- 2 cups fresh rhubarb (stalks), chopped into 3- or 4-inch pieces, about 2 large stalks.
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- pinch salt
- 2-3 fresh mint leaves
- 1 cup rose wine vinegar
- 3 cups tonic water
- 2 cups white or rose wine (optional)
Combine the rhubarb, sugar, salt, and mint in a jar. Stir to combine. Seal the jar and let the mixture sit at room temperature for 3-5 hours. Then put the jar in the refrigerator.
The next day, add the vinegar to the jar, stir, and return the jar to the refrigerator. Keep the jar in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
Remove the jar from the refrigerator, strain out the rhubarb, and your shrub is ready to use for cocktails.
Pour about 1/4 cup of the shrub into each of six cocktail glasses. Add ice. Then divide the tonic water evenly among the glasses, and do the same with the wine, if using it. Stir and serve immediately.
The shrub may stay in the refrigerator for up to a month.
Notes on Making Your Shrub
First things first – As long as you have the general components (fruit, vinegar, herbs, sugar), you can mix things around to suit your taste. Some of our favorite combinations include peach-ginger; strawberry-lemon zest, and blueberry-basil.
Some people prefer to use apple cider vinegar for their shrubs because it’s slightly more acidic and for its purported health benefits. But for this shrub, we chose a rose wine vinegar. First, well, look at this lovely color. And second, for some reason it was on sale at Costco for only $4.95. (No ad here; we’re just shocked and amazed that it was that cheap – we should have bought more!)
Last but not least, when you strain out the fruit (in this case the rhubarb) you can save it and eat it. It’s basically pickled rhubarb. Our family didn’t love it too much because it was a little chewy and stringy (would shorter pieces have helped?) but you can eat it nonetheless.
And there you have it – A rhubarb shrub cocktail! You can enjoy it this summer, cool off, and feel like you’re a true part of American history.