How to make Cocktail Shrubs

Cocktail Shrubs

Written by Clara Wood

April 17, 2024

Cocktail shrubs let you bring in the exact flavours you want into your cocktail. Once made, they also result in the most convenient and time-saving cocktail ingredient and boast an amazing shelf life. Unopened, you can store them unrefrigerated for up to 18-24 months, or 9-12 months refrigerated once opened. Harnessing fruits and natural ingredients, they provide a healthy alternative to pre-made sugary syrups, making them even more attractive.

What is a Cocktail Shrub?  

A shrub is a vinegar-based syrup, made by combing fruits, water, vinegar, sugar and potentially other ingredients to add complexity to the flavour. The result is a unique, tangy concentrate that adds intrigue and depth to cocktails and mocktails alike. Think of it like a non-alcoholic fruit liqueur. They are perfect for crafting refreshing and convenient cocktails, especially when time short! 

Whilst boasting both sweet and dour elements making it a versatile bar tool, in order to strike this balance of flavour, Shrubs can require a little craft. 

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How to Make perfect Cocktail Shrubs 

On overpowering taste of vinegar or rather underwhelming fruit flavours, as you can imagine, leaves a little to be desired.   

Picking your Vinegar is Key 

When God created the Vinegar, he did not create them all equal. Choosing a mediocre vinegar can wreak havoc in your shrub making process.  

In this case try to avoid using distilled vinegars – they doth butter no parsnips! Instead opt for a vinegar that has been made via fermentation like white wine or balsamic vinegar. A high-quality apple cider vinegar could also do the trick.  

It’s worth making the investment of a higher quality vinegar, however when you’re testing the waters, it’s fine to experiment with a lesser vinegar until you’re confident with your final flavour.  

  • Red wine vinegar – try dark berries  
  • White wine vinegar – try Kiwis, Mangoes 
  • Balsamic vinegar – try strawberries  
  • White balsamic vinegar – try raspberries  
  • Apple cider vinegar – try Rhubarb, pineapple 
  • Champagne vinegar – try peaches, apricot 

You could even try your hand at making your own from wine or cider. Simply leave the spent wine to naturally oxidize. It’s worth making a note that, the higher the sugars and alcohol, the more acidic the vinegar will be. So, for shrubs then less sugary and low-alcohol wines, beers and ciders are preferred!   

As a general rule of thumb, dark vinegar, like red wine vinegar, would be paired with dark fruits such as berries, whereas you can pair white wine vinegar with fruits like pineapples and mangoes. 


Cocktail Shrubs
Making the syrup 

This can depend on a few factors.  

Typically, when it comes to this part you have two choices: hot or cold. For most fruits, while its more time consuming, a cold approach can be the way to go.  The fruits can often benefit from a cold method, bringing out brighter and juicer themes and avoiding losing the true nature of their flavour. 

However, if you’re going for deeper and warmer fruits and flavours, heat shall be your ally. For example, when using spices like cinnamon, heat will be an essential element to bring out the flavour.  Similarly, if you’re pressed for time wack on the temperature.  When opting for this method, macerating fruits in sugar can help in retaining their flavour.  

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Making the Shrub 

Before you begin you want to break down your fruits to make it easier for them to combine with the sugar and vinegar. Lightly crush berries or roughly chop larger fruits like strawberries and nectarines. If you’re dealing with the likes of apples and pears then grating them is an effective solution.  

Using equal parts fruit, sugar and vinegar is a good place to start, but be aware of the fruit profile. Slightly more tart ingredients like Rhubarb may require more sugar for example.  


Macerate the fruit by covering and mixing them with sugar and let them sit for a few of days until they meet their glorious syrupy death. Then strain through a muslin cloth and add the vinegar.  


To speed up the process combining fruits, sugar and vinegar in a saucepan and simmer over heat to break everything down. Strain the remaining solids through muslin cloth. 

(The timings and temperatures can vary so best to follow a recipe if unsure).  


Once you have strained into a sterilised bottle, to get rid of all the bits, we suggest keeping any lumpy bits as a delicious addition to your morning yoghurt! 

Cocktail Shrubs
How to use Shrubs in Cocktails  

Shrubs can be enjoyed and add depth to a huge variety of drinks and cocktails, of course depending on the fruits and flavours used. Most likely, you will want to add them to highly diluted drinks over ice and avoid ones that already boast strong acidic ingredients like lime or lemon juice, however these rules are highly casual.  

They serve as a great cordial, simply topped with soda water for an easy sipping mocktail.   

Really, it’s about getting stuck in and getting creative, exploring combinations that works (or not) for you.  

Shrubs are your canvas for flavour exploration! Fresh herbs like mint and basil can unlock hidden sweetness in fruits, while ingredients like ginger, turmeric, chilli and lemongrass add a delectable kick. If you’re feeling dry of creative juices then researching classic flavour pairings can be a good place to start. Consider flavours such as strawberries and black pepper, apple and cardamom, or cherries and cinnamon. While, florals like rose petals or lavender can add a touch of sophistication to your shrub. Experimenting with sugar can stretch the possibilities even further. Brown or Demerara sugar can offer rich, caramel tones, for added layers of complexity.  

Cocktail Shrubs

2 Delicious Shrub Recipes 

Blueberry lavender | serves 2 

  • 75g blueberries  
  • 50g coconut sugar  
  • 1 Tbsp lavender  
  • 60ml red wine vinegar 


Step 1: Macerate blueberries in the coconut sugar. Cover and leave to chill for 24 hours. 

Step 2: In a separate bowl combine the lavender and red wine vinegar. Cover and chill for 24 hours.  

Step 3: Strain out the solids from both mixtures before combining them in a sterilised bowl and giving a little stir. Let this mixture sit in the fridge for a few days before transferring to a bottle, ready to use! 

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Ginger Turmeric Pineapple | serves 2  

  • 220g pineapple chunks 
  • 85g fresh ginger sliced 
  • 42g Fresh turmeric root
    • Or 1tsp ground turmeric 
  • 1 Tbsp peppercorns 
  • 135g white sugar  
  • 320 ml apple cider vinegar 

Step 1: Combine pineapple, ginger, turmeric, pepper and sugar in a bowl and stir to combine.  

Step 2: Cover and chill for a couple of hours or overnight

Step 3: Remove from fridge and leave at room temperature, stirring every 12 hours or so until dissolved into a syrup. (or until your patience runs out) this could take up to 2 –7 days.  

The longer you leave it the more concentrated the flavour will be.  

Step 4: Strain the remaining solids and add vinegar, stirring to combine. You can add more sugar/vinegar to taste.


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