A Reader Question…
We frequently receive questions from blog readers and podcast listeners via our Contact Form, and a few weeks ago we received this one. This reader (name removed for anonymity) is working on a strawberry shrub but struggling with the overpowering vinegar flavor.
Great blog I’ve been following for a while now and really enjoy reading your posts.
Forgive me if this isn’t the place for it but I’ve been struggling with shrubs lately and this was the first place I thought of when needing expert advice.
I recently put together a cold pressed strawberry shrub and have left it to mellow for about a week now but it’s still ridiculously strong in vinegar smell and taste.
While the fruit and sugar does come through it’s over powered by a lingering vinegar taste and does not mix well in cocktails.
I macerated 2 cups of strawberries in 2 cups of sugar and added 2 cups of red wine vinegar to the mix and left it for 5 days.
After which the vinegar was still incredibly overpowering so I added another cup of sugar and another cup of strawberries to it.
After a few more days I tried it in a cocktail and while my initial vision for the drink is hinted at, the vinegar totally overpowers and destroys it .
Really not sure where I have went wrong and was hoping for some advice from you.
It’s been stored in a steel container in a fridge for 8 days so far.
While I replied directly with an email, I thought I’d also share my thoughts here in case other readers run into the same challenges with their own shrubs.
Shrubs are Tricky
First and foremost – I feel your pain! It took me a while to get the hang of making a good shrub and figuring out how to work with them in cocktails. I must have thrown away dozens of shrub attempts over the years.
There are a couple of things that I changed with my approach to shrub production that helped me a lot – hopefully they will help you too.
Choose your Vinegar Wisely
The first thing that I changed was the vinegar that I was using. Nowadays I tend to use milder vinegars rather than stronger flavors. A strong Balsamic will be harder to work with than a shrub made with something lighter like Apple Cider or Champagne vinegar. I have also had good results using Datu Puti Vinegar. This is a Asian style of vinegar that is fairly neutral in flavor and has a base of sugarcane.
If you want to use a more flavorful vinegar, say Balsamic for example, I have used a blend of Datu Puti and Balsamic to get the flavor profile that I’m looking for without the overwhelming vinegar taste.
Macerate, Strain, then add Vinegar
The other thing that I have been doing is macerating the fruit with the sugar first, then I’ll separate the solids from the liquids before adding vinegar. This lets me add vinegar a little at a time, tasting as I go – so I can achieve the balance that I am looking for.
Mellowing Out with Age
As far as the aging goes, I typically will hold the shrub in glass jars for around a month in the refrigerator. I have definitely found that aging will definitely take the sharp edges off of the vinegar flavor as well.
Hopefully this helps anyone out there struggling with their own shrub recipes at home! If you have tips of your own, feel free to share them in the comments below.
Good article and discussion!
I’m following A BAR ABOVE for quite a while now, and went through the Shrubs article time ago.
Nonetheless, at our bar we play with shrubs big time lately.
I can add to the mentioned above, and it’s important to us at least, the role that the fruit/vegetable/flavour ingredient plays in the shrub. For example: making a carrot shrub or beetroot shrub, we found out it works better when we juice them first (in a juice centrifuger) and use the resulting juice PLUS the leftovers of the pulp! This said, using warm method works fairly good and leaves a superb color to the final shrub.
Thanks and keep up the good job guys!
You may want to let the bartender know that storing in steel might be causing a little of a reaction. Try the experiment with glass containers and see if it makes a difference? Also, maybe reduce the vinegar to sugar ratio by a 1/4cup.
How long do you usually wait before adding the vinegar?
Chris will usually let it macerate about 24 hours before straining and adding the vinegar – but it really depends on the fruit you’re using.