Strawberry-Rhubarb Balsamic Shrub

When you hear the phrase “drinking vinegar,” what comes to mind? Weird old-timey medicine? Something gross you’d drink if you were doing some sort of “cleanse”? It’s vinegar. And you drink it. That doesn’t sound delicious at all.

I decided to make a shrub purely out of curiosity. I had a bunch of strawberries and rhubarb leftover from making ice cream, and my eye on this post for a while now. I wanted to try it and I wanted to like it, but deep down, I was worried I’d hate it. It would be too vinegary for me, and I’d feel like a wimp. I’d wind up putting it in smoothies or trying to dilute it with seltzer and/or booze, all the while lamenting the waste of expensive balsamic. But now that I’ve finally tried it, I can honestly say that I don’t like it. I LOVE it.

I really don’t know if I can express how much I love this weird vinegary deliciousness I’ve created. It has a wonderful sweetness to it, counterbalanced by a refreshing tang that kicks you right in the the back of the tongue. Normally, I’ll make a soda syrup that will wind up just sitting in the fridge, hoping it gets used for a few cocktails before it’s deemed no longer drinkable. But I just can’t get enough of this stuff. I’ve been drinking a glass or two of it per day, while telling myself that I can’t have any more because I need to save it for cocktails this weekend. (I’m even considering not using it for cocktails, especially after a little experiment this evening left me craving more shrub and less gin. What?!)

If you’d like to learn a little bit of history about shrubs, Serious Eats has a great article that includes two different methods for making them (hot- and cold-processed). For my shrub, I followed the cold-processed method. Call me old fashioned, but I think there’s something much more appealing and wholesome about giving the ingredients a few days to naturally get acquainted with one another, rather than tossing some stuff in hot sugar water and straining it out after a matter of minutes, then throwing in some vinegar and calling it a day. I can only speak to the results of the cold method, but what I can say about that is it only requires patience and stirring, and the end result is amazing. I already know that I will be making this many, many more times this summer.

Strawberry Rhubarb Shrub (with a little pineapple too!)

(adapted from Fudge Ripple)

yield: approximately 2 cups of syrup

  • 1 1/4 cups of ripe strawberries, cleaned, hulled, and sliced
  • 1/2 cup of rhubarb, cleaned and sliced
  • 1/4 cup of pineapple, sliced (if you don’t want to bother with pineapple, feel free to replace this with another 1/4 cup of rhubarb or strawberries)
  • 1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar
  • 10 black peppercorns, slightly crushed
  • 1 cup of balsamic vinegar (make sure you use a decent quality balsamic)
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar (again, decent quality)

Combine fruit, peppercorns, and sugar in a bowl or jar, stirring to evenly-coat the fruit. Allow mixture to sit for around 1 hour, then macerate until everything is nice and broken up. Cover and let sit for 24 hours. (At room temperature is fine, but feel free to stick it in the fridge too.)

After 24 hours, macerate the mixture again, trying to crush the fruit as much as possible. At this point, you can add the vinegars immediately, or let it sit for another 24 hours. (I let mine sit for another day.)

When ready, add the vinegars and stir well. Store at room temperature for 7–9 days, giving it a good stir each day. When finished, pour the mixture through a cheesecloth-lined sieve, then transfer to a clean jar or container. Store syrup in the fridge.

To mix: Add 1 part syrup to 2.5–3 parts seltzer.

As far as cocktails go, I did not like this very much with gin. I think it would pair much better with tequila, which will be my next experiment!

UPDATE: This shrub + tequila = a match made in heaven. The flavors work with each other so well that you can barely tell where one ends and the other begins. It tastes like a beautiful summer day in a glass! Combine 1 part reposado tequila, 1 part shrub syrup, and 2.5 parts seltzer in a glass filled with ice. (I also added a few drops of pear bitters, and it was divine. I realize most people won’t have these on hand unless you happen to be one of those crazy people that bought Brad Thomas Parsons’s Bitters and immediately made six different batches of bitters . . . like I did. If you’re mega-jealous, do not despair — there just might be a giveaway in the future!)


  1. says

    I am laughing remembering how my grandma used to utilize vinegar with all aches and pains her grandchildren had, including me… I hate the strong acrid smell of vinegar. But this is something I would love to try.

    • says

      Hehe! I definitely understand why you’d dislike the smell after all that. :) I was so skeptical about this thing, which made it extra amazing to open up the jar on the second day of steeping and be greeted by a tangy-yet-sweet smell that was barely reminiscent of nose-stinging vinegar. Love it!

  2. Lisa says

    Wow, I love vinegar and have been known to sip spoonfulls just for. I’m one of those people who love flavors that smack you in the head. I WILL try this. Thanks.

  3. says

    this sounds so strange but really delicious. i will definitely be trying this. have you tried it with the tequila yet? i will most likely be putting booze in this when i make it haha have you ever tried pimm’s no.1? that might pair quite well with this…

    • says

      Thanks, Ashlie! I think I would also avoid Pimm’s with this, as it doesn’t seem to pair well with anything gin-based. I did try it with tequila this weekend, and it was AMAZING! I used 1 part reposado tequila, 1 part shrub syrup, and 2.5 parts seltzer. Definitely the perfect way to spike this shrub. :) Enjoy!

    • says

      I realized after you left that I forgot to give you the two leftover cocktails! I bet they would have made great train beverages for Lowell. : But that’s OK, because I already started a new shrub — double batch this time!

      • Thomas says

        I’m on vinegar day 2. Already quite tasty when licking the spoon after stirring. I was worried that my balsamic was a little on the cheap side, but I think its working out nicely.

        • says

          Weee! So glad to hear it, Thomas. I’ve actually been starting to reconsider my emphasis on the high-quality balsamic. The sugar and fruit definitely have enough presence to smooth out the taste, and it’s not like people were using the finest balsamic vinegar to preserve their fruits back in the days before refrigeration. :) I hope you enjoy the final product. I’ve almost polished off my second batch (which was a double!). It’s so refreshing, especially during this heat wave we’ve been having out here.

          • Thomas says

            Well, I love it. A little too much, I think :). Not a big fan of seltzer water, and I’ve found that a straight 1-1 ratio of vinegar and tequila over ice is immensely sippable. Unfortunately that means my drink is empty rather quickly.

            My wife and 3 of my kids don’t like it much, but my 3 year old *loves* the shrub+seltzer drink.

            Thank you for making the recipe sound good enough to finally give shrubs a try.

            Oh, one last note, I used frozen rhubarb and strawberries – seemed perfect since I worry about their squishiness in some recipes.

          • says

            Yay! Isn’t it amazing with tequila? I’ve actually mixed it will still water (on the occasions when I’m out of seltzer) in a 1:2.5 ratio of shrub to water, and that works well too. I’m so impressed that your three year old loves it!

            I’m glad you’re enjoying it, Thomas, and thank you so much for keeping me posted on your progress! (Also good to know it works well with frozen fruit — I’ll definitely be making batches throughout the winter.) :)

  4. says

    I read about shrubs awhile ago and always meant to look into them more (but then forgot!) – I love anything with rhubarb but this looks so interesting and is a different twist on it… and recipes for new summer cocktails are always good to find! Great photos too!

    • says

      Thank you, Sarah! I just finished filter my second batch (a double!) this morning. I don’t think I’ve ever been this obsessed with a beverage before. :)

  5. says

    i love the addition of rhubarb. i just put up a batch of cherry shrub that is fantastic! and…i am one of those that makes batches and batches of bitters…so glad to have found someone else who doesn’t find that strange…thanks for linking back to my post in yours, i appreciate it.


    • says

      A cherry shrub sounds divine! I was making this shrub pretty much non-stop until I the strawberries began to dwindle at the farmers’ market, so I think it might be time to switch to cherries. Thank you so much for inspiring me to make this, and turning me into a shrub addict!

  6. says

    Oh my goodness – this looks absolutely incredible! Thank you for introducing me to the shrub – I’m definitely making this! Such beautifully iconic images.

    Ps. I think “Weird, Old-Timey Medicine” would be a great blog name.

    Pps. Have you ever been to The Ice Cream Bar in San Francisco? I think you would dig their old-timey libations, like lactarts and phosphates, in all sorts of crazy cool flavors.

    • says

      Oh man, that would be a good blog name! I had dreams of starting a side project soda/libation blog, but, unless I figure out how to bend space and time, there’s just no way I could run two blogs and work a full time job. Especially being me. Having said that, I still keep The Aspiring Jerk registered as a domain name, just in case. :D

      I am so happy I introduced you to shrubs, because I’m pretty sure you are going to LOVE these things! They were my obsession of 2012, and I currently have more than I know what to do with in my house. There’s a few other recipes on my blog, but this one is still my favorite. (Although the beet-lemon shrub I made earlier this winter is giving it a run for its money.)

      I have never made it all the way out to the west coast (which is a crazy thing that I need to remedy), but I read about The Ice Cream Bar a little while ago and kind of freaked out, because it’s pretty much the dream shop that my friend Whitney and I came up with in our if-we-could-open-any-shop-it-would-be-this-kind-of-shop musings. When I do finally take a trip out there, I’m going to drive whomever accompanied me crazy, because I won’t want to eat/drink anywhere else!

  7. says

    The Aspiring Jerk – LOVE! Totally worth bending space and time to be able to use it. Lemon beet shrub sounds incredible, as do all the shrubs on your site. I want to consume your entire blog.

    Mad respect for having a full time job AND a blog. You do an absolutely amazing job!

    I feel exactly the same way about Ice Cream Bar. I’ll accompany you there anytime! (I only just made it to the East Coast for the first time last summer. And I’m 31!)

    • says

      Yay! :D Part of me is afraid that once I take a trip all the way out west, I will never want to leave. The weather out here is perfect for a few weeks in the fall and spring, and then it’s just muddy spring, unbearably gross, humid summer, or freezing/icy/slushy winter. (Plus I have a very bizarre fascination with deserts, considering I’ve never actually been all that near one. I’ve been out to Colorado a number of times though, and I adore the landscape. In my mind, it only gets better the further west you go!)

      • says

        Well, I can’t blame you – the weather in SF is pretty darn dreamy most of the time. Though as a result, we are the biggest wimps, and we freak out whenever the temperature leaves the 60-80º zone. But you’ve got a place to stay whenever you want tempt yourself!

        I’ve always wanted to see Vermont – I hear it is amazing…though the weather does sound off-putting!

        • says

          Hehe! I might criticize the weather a bit too harshly considering what a beautiful state it really is. (My negativity may have something to do with the never-ending winter — I always get really bitter around mid-February.) :) If you’re ever in the northeastern area of Vermont, we will have to meet up! I know lots of good things to do (pretty much all revolving around food/drinks!).

          • says

            Oh boy, my shrub is beginning to shrub – so excited! Thanks for the sweet invite – you’ll be the first to know if I ever make it to your neck of the woods! Jay and I both hate flying, so we don’t travel a whole lot. Food and drinks are a great incentive, though! Did you ever post your lemon beet shrub recipe? That sounds so good! Cheers. :)

          • says

            Yay!! You’re going to love it! :D

            I know how that flying thing goes. I actually kind of love hanging out in airports and being in the air, but I can’t stand all the hassle leading up to it (and the craziness that ensues if you encounter delays).

            I actually never got around to posting that lemon beet shrub, but I will totally send you a bottle with the Peruvian bitters! (Which I seriously need to ship, STAT.) :)


  1. […]  i really want to try these rhubarb bars from twospoons.  and i desperately want to try this rhubarb-strawberry shrub from petite kitchenesse.  maybe i’ll get done early and i’ll […]

  2. […] Rhubarb’s tangy bite marks the beginning of the canning season. Usually I stick to strawberry rhubarb jam, but this year I’m going to branch out to make a shrub and strawberry rhubarb butter. Fruit butters take longer to cook down, but the result is has an amazing texture, pure taste, and significantly less sugar than jam. Shrubs are new to me! They’re an old time vinegar syrup (sweet and tangy!) often mixed with carbonated water or used in mixing drinks – I was inspired by Reclaiming Provincial’s shrub. […]

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