Looking to incorporate a slightly healthier spin on your cocktail of choice this holiday season? Consider shrubs! Aside from lending a seasonal element to the cocktail bar, you can make them ahead – as they keep in the refrigerator for over 6 months! We tapped the help of Wild Heart Events’s Creative Director Jaime Kostechko, for some intel on creating the ultimate shrub bar, and scooped up a few helpful tricks and tips along the way. See for yourself!
First things first – what is a shrub?
A shrub is an acidulated beverage made from minimal, organic ingredients; usually a blend of fruit, sugar, and vinegar. Shrubs are easy to make and you can create your own flavor profiles using just about any fruit, herbs, or vinegars. The end result is a craft cocktail that is sweet and savory, refreshing and organic, with minimal sugars, preservatives or artificial ‘hangover inducing’ ingredients!
What is your go-to recipe when throwing a cocktail party?
I usually break out my collection of shrubs – you can make them year-round with seasonal ingredients and keep them in your fridge for up to 6 months!
A shrub bar is easy to set up if you’re pressed for time. If you don’t have homemade shrubs on hand, there are a number of sources (online and in-store) for pre-made cocktail shrubs, which come in a variety of flavors. Simply pour your pre-packaged shrub into a stylish bottle, make a cute label and set it out for your guests to enjoy!
My typical bar setup when hosting consists of…
Some sparkling water, ice, citrus, Angostura bitters and gin, vodka, and tequila!
I let my guests take the reins when it comes to crafting their own specialty cocktails with the liquor of their choice. I like to add a splash of sparkling lemonade (I love Belvoir Fruit Farms Elderflower & Rose Lemonade) or St. Germain into the mix and colorful garnishes of fruit, herbs, or edible flowers to complement the flavor profile of the shrubs. I’ll use cut citrus, fresh berries, rosemary sprigs, mint or candied ginger (just to name a few!), depending on the season.
Jaime on elevating cocktails:
“I love using fancy ice cubes that have been frozen with citrus and edible flowers. The best part is as they gradually melt, they also slowly flavor your beverage!
I’m also a fan of garnishing cocktails with candied or dried fruit, and featuring one-of-a-kind stir sticks (these brass beauties made by CA Makes are just perfect!).
How can one easily adapt a shrub recipe for the season?
The best thing about shrubs is that you can make them year-round using seasonal fruits and herbs – and the flavor possibilities are endless! I tend to make bright-flavored fruit shrubs with mint, cilantro, and ginger in the summer. For the fall, I turn to darker berry shrubs with star anise, cloves, and vanilla. While during the spring, I lean towards floral-inspired shrubs using lavender, rosehips, and hibiscus.
Blackberry Sage Shrub Cocktail
- 2 ounces gin or vodka
- 1/2 ounce blackberry sage shrub (recipe follows below)
- 2 dashes lavender bitters
- 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
- Sparkling water
- Fresh blackberries
- Fresh lavender or sage
1. Add the first four ingredients into a strainer and shake with the ice.
2. Strain and serve over ice, and top with sparkling water to taste.
3. Garnish with fresh blackberries and lavender or sage skewered on a drink stirrer.
Blackberry Sage Shrub
- 1 lemon
- 2 cup blackberries
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 4-5 sprigs fresh sage
- Sparkling water
- 1 cup champagne or white wine vinegar
1. Begin by zesting the lemon, using a vegetable peeler. Muddle the zest with ½ cup of sugar and set aside for an hour.
2. In a separate bowl, juice or muddle 2 cups of blackberries and set aside.
3. Grind the sage using a mortar and pestle and add to the muddled berries.
4. Remove the lemon peels from the citrus sugar and add the sugar to the blackberry mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.
5. Once thoroughly chilled, add 1 cup champagne and stir to dissolve the sugar. Strain the mixture into a jar and refrigerate. The longer the shrub sits in your fridge, the more the fruit and herb flavors will develop. Three weeks is just about perfection!