The first time Le Futiloscope ran across “shrub” it was last year at Cravan, the HQ for South Auteuil. A surprising fig drink, non-alcoholic, sparkling, and spicy was brought to our table. A few days later the mysterious name re-appeared at Josephine, the bar at the Hotel Lutetia. An intriguing “celery and citrus shrub” this time…in a cocktail loaded with vodka. And then…nothing! No problem; we had other to trends to occupy us.
Since, Le Futiloscope American channel, has sipped shrub (quince and star anise) at London Plane, high fashion resto/florist/concept store in Seattle. In a coffee shop in the very “in” Marfa, little Texan town dedicated to contemporary art. In New York, we discovered that Russ & Daughters, the well-known lox and bagel vendor, has sold it since 1913! Or in those little bottles of “drinking vinegar” which have recently invaded our favorite supermarket and are in reality… once again, shrub!
Let’s start from the beginning. The word defines an antique method of conservation, popular in the US and England from the 17th century until the invention of the refrigerator. It’s a mixture of pureed fruits, sugar and vinegar (hence its other name “drinking vinegar”). You can also use vegetables (beets, fennel…), flowers (lavender, elderberry…) spices, herbs (rosemary, basil…), play with the acidity (it's stronger with cider vinegar, more syrupy with balsamic). You let it infuse a week in the fridge, or – faster – heat the mixture (click here for instructions).
Can you add whatever ingredients you want? Bartenders do it, that’s for sure. They put shrub in cocktails, but use it mostly to acidify (it replaces citrus) their “spirit free” creations that the neo-abstinents are looking for. In Paris, Margaux Lecarpentier, at Combat loves using shrub says the newspaper Le Monde. And it’s flowing in London where the new followers of “sober is sexy” are legion.
Truth be known, this ex-vintage beverage has been reincarnated…as a major trend in 2019. Because shrub in nothing more than the liquid equivalent of pickles! And like them, it’s a “no waste” champion of recycled bruised fruits, and it keeps for months. You can thin it out with sparkling water, and it’s super healthy. Vinegar is brimming with detox enzymes, kills bacteria, and even, according to some studies, regulates appetite. Not surprising that shrub has dethroned “fruit water” in Mason jars. Or that it’s overshadowing kombucha, another so-called effervescent miracle drink.
In the US, lots of smaller manufacturers are making it, like microbreweries. We’re tempted to try this one, made in Kansas City, made out of watermelon and habanero peppers. But we just ordered a lot of it from a Pennsylvanian bio farm. In France, alas, we haven’t yet found a supplier. But it’s easy as pie to make at home! And think about the glory you’ll cover yourself with this summer when you buy a box of wilting apricots (“It’s for a compote?” “Why no, its for shrub!”). Or of the pleasure you’ll have in serving it to your amazed guests. Le Futiloscope tested it for you; with Prosecco or San Pellegrino it works too.
Drawing by Isashi Okawa for Bon Appetit . " Som" is a line of drinking vinegars launched a few years ago by the chef Andy Ricker of restaurant Pok-Pok (Portland & New -York)