Lemon Rosemary Shrub is just the latest chapter in my fascination with “drinking vinegars.”
The pattern for making shrubs is simple. Begin with sugar, flavoring, and water – in other words a flavored simple syrup – add good vinegar, and you’ve got a shrub. Most people top off the shrub with alcohol or carbonated water (either club soda or seltzer) or both. I like ice in mine too.
My first shrub, spiced pineapple, got high praise from my family, especially when my son Liam added rum to the non-alcoholic version I offered him. I’ll have another pineapple shrub to share later in the summer. In the meantime, I’ve been experimenting with other ingredients as the flavor base.
Shrubs take several days to make, as they have to mellow in two or three stages. However, they are simple to put together and none of the preparation is time consuming. If you are patient, the reward is considerable. They are great party drinks – put out the pitcher of drinking vinegar and let your guests add the other elements (ice, alcohol, and/or carbonated water) according to their own taste.
This month, it is my turn to host Progressive Eats. In summer, I love using fresh herbs, preferably whatever we are growing on our deck. So it was easy to decide that “Herbs Every Which Way” would be this month’s Progressive Eats theme.
With shrubs on my mind and our rosemary thriving, my contribution was almost fated to be this Lemon Rosemary Shrub. The idea for it began during a conversation with our cousin Zach, one evening after dinner. As we sat at the table, swapping recipe ideas, I mentioned the concept of a shrub that included herbs from our deck. We settled on rosemary as the herb of choice and he began describing the ingredients and preparation for a lemon rosemary shrub. While I did play around a bit with proportions and directions, the concept is his.
The lemon is dominant in this version, but that’s to be expected. The rosemary kind of sneaks up on you – in a good way. Keep in mind that the strength of the rosemary aroma and flavor in the drink depend entirely on the particular qualities of the herb you’re using. That makes this recipe more art than science. Taste as you go, and don’t hesitate to let the fresh rosemary and your own tastebuds be your guide.
The vinegar adds tartness. It is the ingredient that makes this drink a shrub and not simply a rosemary-scented lemonade. I’ve specified a Prosecco or Champagne vinegar because those are tart without being medicinal. You may find another white wine vinegar that works as well, but don’t substitute ordinary white vinegar.
Zach recommended using a London Dry gin for this shrub and he proposed Tanqueray. Although it would have been fine to simply rely on his advice, I couldn’t resist checking other options. I found a helpful Serious Eats article on good gins under $20 and was seriously considering going for one of the lower-priced gins that the author, Michael Dietsch, likes. However, at the end of the article, Dietsch casually mentions that he would buy Tanqueray, but for its price. When I found it at a good price, I decided to go for it. (Dietsch priced Tanqueray at $26-27 in 2015, while my local store sells it now for about $21.)
I was happy with that choice. To my taste, it is smooth and well suited to a lemon-based shrub. Still, as you’ll see in the recipe, my tendency is to go light on the gin if you’re making this shrub into a cocktail. The 4 (gin) to 1 (shrub) ratio in this recipe was tilted way too far to the alcohol in my view.
One last note on shrubs. Researching Michael Dietsch, I discovered that he wrote a well-reviewed book on shrubs. I don’t know anything more about it than the reviews, but they were enough to pique my interest. It’s not surprising that there is a whole book of shrub recipes. My only question is whether I should consult it before or after I develop my own shrub repertoire.
Lemon Rosemary Shrub
A delightful version of the "drinking vinegars" known as shrubs. This one combines lemon simple syrup with rosemary, Prosecco or Champagne vinegar, and a splash or two of gin and/or sparkling water/club soda.
- 2 lemons (preferably organic), zest only
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- fresh rosemary - a 3-inch sprig or more
- 1/2 cup Prosecco or champagne vinegar
- club soda, seltzer or sparkling water
- dry gin such as Tanqueray (optional)
Zest the lemons making thick strands of peel. Add to the sugar and mix with your hands or a fork until the peel is well-coated with sugar. Place the mixture in a closed container, shake it periodically to further mix the sugar and peel, and refrigerate the mixture overnight.
Add 3/4 cup water. Put the mixture in a saucepan on a low light. Heat it just until the sugar dissolves. Then take the mixture off the heat and remove the lemon zest without taking any of the sugar mixture with it. (If necessary, scrape the rind with a butter knife as you remove it.) Add a 3-4-inch stem of fresh rosemary and refrigerate the mixture in a closed container for a second day. If the rosemary has not yet added aroma to the mixture, add more rosemary and refrigerate for another day.
On the second or third day, add the vinegar and refrigerate for another 2 days.
Serve the shrub with or without ice cubes. Add a splash of club soda/seltzer/sparkling water or similar carbonation. To turn the shrub into a cocktail, add 1 ounce of gin, or more if desired. The cocktail version can be made with or without the splash of carbonation. If making a cocktail, the gin is typically added before the carbonation.
I like this hint from Fork + Plate for measuring ounces if you don't have a shot glass or jigger with a specified size. (Both shot glasses and jiggers can vary, some are as little as 1 ounce, while others are 1 1/2 or 2 ounces.) A tablespoon is about 1/2 ounce. So 1 ounce of gin equals 2 tablespoons of gin.
The preparation time does not take into account the several days of mellowing for the mixture to fully develop taste after each addition.
Welcome to Progressive Eats, our virtual version of a Progressive Dinner Party. Our menu this month features all dishes that include our favorite herbs! We’ve got a great mix from a cocktail to desserts; all recipes showing just how versatile these garden favorites can be! Hosting this month is Laura from Mother Would Know.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a progressive dinner involves going from house to house, enjoying a different course at each location. With Progressive Eats, a theme is chosen each month, members share recipes suitable for a delicious meal or party, and you can hop from blog to blog to check them out.
Summer Herbs Every Which Way
- Lemon Rosemary Shrub Cocktail from Mother Would Know
- Rosemary Potato Chips with Herb Aioli from The Red Head Baker
- Mayo-Free Chicken Salad Sandwiches with Lemon and Herbs from Healthy Delicious
- Grilled Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce (Gluten-Free) from The Heritage Cook
- Mexican Chopped Salad with Cilantro Vinaigrette from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Mexican Green Goddess Pasta Salad from Pastry Chef Online
- Rosemary Lemon Shortbread Cookies from Creative Culinary