So for those who have never had a shrub before, the idea of a “drinking vinegar” may sound quite foul, particularly a beet and carrot shrub may not sound like a nice drink at all. However, shrubs are actually quite a classic drink mixer, with ancient roots which are likely due to the lack of good technique on making different drinks, causing fruit to ferment to vinegar. Fortunately these seem to be one of those pleasant historical mistakes. Most sources show early America though, as the place where mixing drinking vinegar with spirits became popular, with accounts of college students of the 1830’s enjoying these “cocktails” at nights after classes.
The particular shrub that we recently picked up is the McClary Bros. Michigan Beet and Carrot. This is one of the currently 7 available varieties from this small Michigan based business, and fortunately the mixer itself is not too hard to find if you look around. So far I have not ventured much past the basic “Old-Timey Shrub Cocktail” with my experimentation with this ingredient, but it is quite a delicious and refreshing drink to start with. I have tried making one with bourbon, gin, vodka, and rum so far; and without a doubt gin is the best mixer to use with this variant.
The beet and carrot flavors really do come through and give the drink a nice bright and earthy flavor which mixes quite well with the fruity and herbal notes of the gin. Sparkling water is a necessary addition as the effervescence helps to bring everything together. This is best served well chilled, and I would recommend playing around with ratios a bit to find your personal preference. I actually prefer the recipe as given on the bottle as I find with more of the shrub the vinegar flavor is too strong, and with any less the beet and carrot flavors tend to be muted. This as well was my issue with using whiskey with the shrub as there was no good ratio I could find where all of the flavors melded nicely, it always ended with one covering up the other.
Mix all of the above over ice, give it a quick stir, and enjoy your earthy old-timey cocktail.