Quick Peachy Basil Shrub
What is a shrub?
In the drink world, a shrub (or drinking vinegar) is a concentrated syrup that combines fruit, sugar, and vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is the most common base for shrubs, and herbs and spices are often added to create interesting flavor combinations. This sweet, acidic mixer can be enjoyed with still water or soda or used as a mixer for cocktails.
Historically, our version of the shrub originates in 17th century England where vinegar was used (as an inexpensive alternative to citrus juices) in the preservation of berries and other fruits for the off-season. By the 19th century, typical American recipes for shrubs used vinegar poured over fruit—traditionally berries—which was left to infuse anywhere from overnight up to several days. After infusing, the fruit would be strained out and the remaining liquid would be mixed with a sweetener such as sugar or honey and then reduced to make a syrup. The sweet-and-sour syrup could be mixed with either water or soda water and served as a soft drink, or it could be used as a mixer in alcoholic cocktails.
Shrubs fell out of popularity with the advent of home refrigeration but have seen a resurgence in the last decade. The are simple to make, the ingredients are relatively inexpensive, and the final product is refreshing. The combinations are almost endless, muddling herbs, infusing spices and combining fruits to make all sorts of flavors.
Shrubs are more flavorful if you combine the fruit and sugars and let them macerate for 12-24 hours, but this quick recipe is a good alternative when time is an issue.
A Quick Peachy Basil Summer Selection.
1 cup fresh peaches chopped roughly (reserve all that juice!)
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup water (for simmering)
3/4 cup sugar (if using honey, start with 1/2 a cup and add more as needed)
a bunch of fresh basil (for muddling)
a lemon for juicing
a bottle of seltzer (for mixing)
a pitcher of ice
Start by adding your chopped peaches, peach juices, and sugar to a sauté pan, crushing the fruit and sugar together. Add the water and vinegar, then bring to a boil. Reduce the flame and simmer, stirring until the sugar is thoroughly dissolved. You can reduce slightly but you do not need a full on syrup.
Muddle about 20 large basil leaves in the bottom of your pitcher (crush slightly against the sides of the pitcher to release the oils). Pour your fruit mixture over the basil. Add seltzer at the ration of 1 part syrup to 2 parts seltzer. Add the juice of one freshly squeezed lemon (Pro tip: Roll your room temperature lemon back and forth of the counter before squeezing to release the most juice.)
Stir to mix and pour over a glass full of ice. Garnish with a basil sprig and a slice of ripe peach.
Depending on your glass size, this can serve 5-12 people.