At the moment, I’m shrub obsessed – and I don’t mean the shrubs that grow in garden. Starting with this Spiced Pineapple Shrub, I’m going to enjoy these sweet-and-vinegary drinks all summer long.
I first tasted shrubs a few years ago, at Russ & Daughters, a famous Lower East Side delicatessen. The beet shrub there was memorable. Although I dreamed of re-creating that drink, somehow I never got around to it.
Then our cousin Zach visited last week. He’s totally fun; when he and my beloved get together, adventures are the order of the day. Here they are during our night time visit to one of our favorite DC places, the statue of Albert Einstein outside the headquarters of the National Academy of Sciences.
Anyway, back to shrubs – and Zach’s advice on how to make them. He’s a professional beverage guy (my own term for a restaurant beverage manager) and a lover of all kinds of drinks. Although his true love is cocktails, he’s also really into non-alcoholic shrubs. Sitting at the porch table after dinner one night, he talked me through the shrub-making process.
With a ripe pineapple on my counter, Zach’s imagination and memory of shrubs past went immediately to pineapple shrubs. He gave me a basic recipe for spiced pineapple shrub that I adapted very slightly in the course of doubling it to make about 3 cups of the base.
What is a shrub? Imbibe Magazine calls shrubs “A sharp tangy infusion of fruit, vinegar and sugar….” There are two ways to make a shrub – hot or cold. Hot preparation requires simmering the fruit in simple syrup or placing the fruit in vinegar heated to just below boiling. (The former way is from Food52, while the latter is from The Kitchn.) A cold shrub is simply fruit refrigerated with sugar or other sweetener, then adding vinegar and continuing to steep the mixture.
Zach’s recipe for spiced pineapple shrub uses the cold method. The ingredients are simple. (The only ingredient not shown below is the club soda or seltzer that you add after the syrup is ready.) The key is good fruit and high quality vinegar.
It does take time for a cold method shrub to steep – about 5 days in the case of this recipe. But it takes almost no time to prepare and it’s easy to track the time if you use labels on the container in which you make the shrub.
You can find all manner of proportions for shrub components. The bottom line is that there is no single, magic formula. It’s all a matter of personal taste. How sweet do you like the shrub? How sweet is the fruit you use? What type of vinegar are you using and how does it react with the other ingredients? Lots of variables and no right or wrong answer.
Spiced Pineapple Shrub
A refreshing non-alcoholic drink that pairs pineapple and spices with vinegar and sugar. The sweet and tangy shrub is perfect on a hot day.
- 1 pound fresh pineapple, cut into small pieces About 2 cups
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup Demerara (raw) sugar
- 4 cloves, crushed
- 3 cinnamon sticks, crushed
- 20 allspice berries
- 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
- 1/2-3/4 cup champagne or Prosecco wine vinegar
- club soda or seltzer to taste
Pour the pineapple pieces, the granulated and Demerara sugar together.
Mix them together, cover, and let them sit overnight in the refrigerator.
Add the spices and let the mixture steep an additional day.
Mix in the champagne or Prosecco wine vinegar and refrigerate for another 3 days. When the mixture is done steeping, strain it into a pitcher or other container with a lid, pressing the pineapple pieces to get out all the juices.
Serve mixed with club soda or seltzer over ice. For this particular shrub, I liked a ratio of 1 part shrub to 1 part or more club soda or seltzer.