Shrubs are pretty great summer drinks. They’re bracingly sweet-tart, a combination that helps quench thirst on the hottest days. This is something people figured out centuries ago – these sweetened vinegar drinks used to be the energy drinks of Colonial America. Let’s do it again, using two terrific summer ingredients: peach and basil. Bonus: Once you make the shrub syrup, shrubs are super easy to turn into mocktails, so we included a bonus mocktail recipe below. It’s a special 2-in-1 cocktail post: a Peach-Basil Shrub Cocktail and Mocktail. –Andrew
Peach-Basil Shrub Cocktail
- 2 oz Whiskey*
- 1 oz Peach-Basil Shrub
- 1/2 oz Lemon Oleo Saccharum
- 1/2 oz Lime Juice
- 1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth
- 1/4 oz Campari
Peach-Basil Shrub Mocktail
- 3 oz Peach-Basil Shrub
- Soda Water
To make the peach-basil shrub: combine a cup of sugar and a cup of apple cider vinegar in a saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently until the sugar is fully dissolved into the vinegar. While the vinegar is heating, combine a cup of diced peach – about one large peach’s worth – and a handful of fresh basil leaves in a blender. Once the sugar has dissolved into the vinegar, remove the saucepan from the heat and let it cool to room temperature. Then add the sweetened vinegar to the blender and blend the peach, basil, and vinegar to a pulp. Strain the mixture through a few layers of cheese cloth or a coffee filter, then bottle and refrigerate the shrub.
To make the cocktail: combine all the ingredients in a shaker filled two-thirds with ice and shake well. Strain into a lowball glass filled with fresh ice and garnish with a slice of peach or fresh basil. Enjoy!
There are a couple of traditional ways of making shrubs, each of which has some drawbacks. You can simmer equal parts of vinegar, sugar, and fruit together over low heat. This is a quick way to make a shrub, but the resulting shrub will taste of cooked fruit. Or you can infuse the fruit into the vinegar, letting vinegar and sugar and fruit sit together in the fridge, which will give you cleaner, clearer fruit flavors but also takes days to infuse. This version is the best of both worlds, a quick process that preserves those clear fruit flavors. It saves all the heating for the vinegar alone, which has no effect on the flavor, but also speeds up the process dramatically, using the blender to infuse quickly.
The resulting cocktail is tart and savory, with lots of fruit and basil and vinegary tart notes up front, with a solid whiskey backing. Sweet vermouth and Campari are here both to take the edge off the shrub’s acidity, which can be a bit sharp when not rounded out, and to add some more Italian flavors to complement the shrub’s classic Italian pairing of peaches and basil.
This shrub is just as delicious as a mocktail. Just put three ounces of the shrub into a highball glass filled with ice and top with soda water to taste, giving it a stir to incorporate. Tasty, bright, refreshing, and totally booze free!
*We used Heritage Cask Whiskey by one of our favorite distilleries, Stonecutter Spirits in Vermont. Their whiskey is aged in bourbon and wine barrels and tastes like a rich, robust Irish whiskey.
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Photo Credits: Nole Garey for Oh So Beautiful Paper