Last week, I mentioned that beverages are my current obsession. Included in my beverage obsession are shrub syrups and their many uses.

Shrub syrups are drinking vinegars that date back to Colonial times. They were made to help preserve fruits and added to water or spirits to flavor drinks. They fell out of popularity during the last century, as did preserving all sorts of foods, but the current DIY, food preservation, and haute cocktail movements have brought them back to life.

What’s in a shrub? Very basic recipes call for fruit (or vegetables – rhubarb and beets are common), vinegar and sugar. Some recipes add water; some add spices and herbs. Some methods, like the one from the Kitchn blog are made quickly on the stovetop. Other recipes are steeped for several days without heat – like this Blueberry Ginger Shrub from Food in Jars.

I made my own rhubarb shrub that I’ve been experimenting with. I’ve been mixing it into cocktails, adding it to my homemade limoncello, and flavoring club soda and tonic water with it. The quinine in the tonic water and the vinegar in the shrub make for a non-alcoholic beverage with quite a bitter kick – not for everyone but I like it. As the summer progresses and I experiment more, I'll share any recipes I come with that I think are exceptional.

Shrub syrups are versatile and there are many ways to add them to your summer menu and beyond. I have a bottle of Ginger Shrub from Tait Farm Foods and they have recipes on their website for Ginger Apple Cake, Ginger Sweet Potato Salad and more using the shrub. They have similar recipes for their other varieties of fruit shrubs. On Food Network, Alton Brown has an informative video about shrubs and suggests using them for salad dressings and marinades.

Have you discovered shrub syrups yet? How do you use them?

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Shrub syrups need to be part of your summer menu
If you haven’t experimented with these Colonial drinking vinegars, it’s time to buy (or make) a bottle and get creative.