OK, we’re just going to admit it. There was a point in time (um, not long ago) when we heard a bartender talking about shrubs and we thought he meant he was going to go pick some rosemary off a bush out back. Was it really that outside the realm of possibility? Everyone’s using fresh herbs in their drinks these days – muddled basil, crushed lemongrass. We shrugged and waited for a fragrant garnish. Then we figured out that cocktail shrubs have absolutely nothing to do with mom’s topiary bush and hung our heads in embarrassment.
We were also curious, and after a little research, found out that this of-the-moment beverage addition made from fruit, sugar, and oftentimes vinegar is actually an old-fashioned way of preserving juice from before the advent of refrigeration. In other words, when someone uses the term “Pre-Prohibition” cocktails, this is pre-pre-Prohibition level of vintage.
Though shrubs are no longer needed for their preservative qualities, we can’t help but love them for the tart, refreshing pop they add to sparkling water or cocktails. Sherri Castellano of With Food + Love has concocted this lovely Pineapple Sage Shrub that is a perfect introduction to this delicious drink. They’re so simple to make: Just bring a cup of water and two cups of cubed fresh pineapple to a boil in a small sauce pan, reduce the heat, and let simmer for fifteen minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat, add fifteen sage leaves, and muddle everything together for a few minutes. Let it rest, then add a half-cup of honey.
Next, you’ll strain the mixture, reserving the liquid, and add to it a cup of apple cider vinegar. Once it’s cooled, you now have a shrub that you can add over ice to sparkling water – or gin, though it’s totally optional. Even without the booze, you will still have a delectable beverage that will make you look like a certified mixologist.
You can find the full recipe for Sherrie’s Pineapple Sage Shrub at With Food + Love.