Cherry Balsamic Shrub

It seems that season change is, at last, undeniably on the horizon. I think many of us felt it approaching weeks ago, when otherwise normal summer afternoons gave way to cooler nights and brisk mornings. It hit me as I was riding my bike home early one morning in mid-August: “Ah! There it is — the smell of fall.” Bring it on. I am so ready for boots and cider. Butternut squash and cardigans. Scarves, scarves, scarves!

This is also the time of year when I find myself especially drawn to food bloggers in the southern hemisphere. While we’re dragging out canning equipment and preparing to throw elbows to get our hands on the first cider doughnuts, they’re experiencing picnic weather and spring wild flowers. It’s a welcome reminder that the world is so much bigger than me and my scarves.

As I eagerly await all that I love about fall, I am simultaneously attempting to preserve what I can of summer. I want shrubs of all kinds. Blackberry. Peach. Plum. I managed to get my hands on some fresh figs when I was in NY this past weekend, only to have them go bad before I returned to VT. (I knew they were a risky purchase, but all I could see when I bought them was fresh figs with goat cheese, and a fig balsamic shrub. Throwing that pint container away this morning was a sad thing.)

I talked shrubs in an earlier post this year. But for those who missed it, shrubs are a beverage made (primarily) from fresh fruit, vinegar, and sugar. They date back to the pre-refrigeration days of the 18th century when they were a means to preserve fruit, and they’ve stuck around because they’re darn tasty. Their combination of sweetness and tang makes them super refreshing. They’re great with some seltzer, and they also make excellent cocktail mixers.

This cherry shrub is wonderfully tart (and a gorgeous shade of red, to boot). I can’t say that like it more than the strawberry-rhubarb shrub (which was to die for), but it has grown on me to the point where I’d say I like it almost as much, albeit for different reasons. The strawberry-rhubarb shrub was smooth and refreshing, while the tang of the cherries gives this one a bit more of a kick. I think this shrub would still pair well with tequila, but I imagine it would also go splendidly with whiskey. (Unfortunately, I drank/gave away all of this one before I could test out my theory!) If anyone would like to give it a try and report back, I’d love to hear the results.

Cherry Balsamic Shrub

  • 2 cups of cherries, halved and pitted
  • 1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 1 cup of balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup of cider vinegar

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’d recommend giving it the additional 24 hours, as I think this extra fermentation time does nice things for the final flavor.)

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.

Here’s to enjoying what’s left of summer. Happy September!



  1. says

    There was a recipe for Concord Grape Shrub on The Year in Food last year. I was all set to make that, but now it’s a toss up. You might have me on the “it will go well with whiskey” thing.

    The only figs I have found where I live are shipped out from California. I bought some when I was particularly desperate for figs, only to be (not surprisingly) really disappointed. Fruit that fragile is best right where it comes from.

    • says

      Ooooo, I’d love to try that Concord Grape Shrub! And you’re totally right about fragile fruits. I knew those pretty little figs were probably picked early so they wouldn’t spoil on the way over — I definitely got way too caught up in the excitement of actually being able to purchase them. Funny, on the table right next to them were some Concord grapes! I should have made the wiser purchase. :)

    • says

      Hmmmm, that’s a good question. I don’t think things would work exactly the same way, as the fruit would likely absorb the honey (rather than having their juices be extracted by the sugar). That being said, the absorption of liquid would certainly soften them up a bit, and you could probably get a bit of juice out of them by giving them a good mashing. If you haven’t cut out sugar entirely, it might not hurt to try half sugar/half honey, so you still get some juice extraction. If you’d rather not go that route, you could always try all honey and see what happens. (I, for one, am curious!) If you do 100% honey, I’d suggest using around 1 1/4 cups. (And if you try this, definitely let me know how it works out.)

      • Nicole says

        In regard to using honey instead of sugar… I make homemade jam by macerating the fruit in the fridge overnight with just honey. By the morning I always have a ton of liquid from the fruit in the bowl. My guess would be that honey would definitely work, based on that experience.

        The shrub looks great!

  2. says

    I love that photo of the icy-cold beverage. Such a lusciously dark, rich red. I reside in Australia and am now experiencing a rainy spring, it’s always interesting to see what’s happening in food blogs elsewhere. We’ll have cherry season in a couple of months!

  3. seth hurley says


    “No, it’s a cardigan, but thanks for asking!”

    (I hope you get my obscure reference) :)

    BTW, Adam made watermelon margarita popsicles for this party we both went to the other night, a la your recipe from Matt’s b-day party. They came out amazingly well. Yay Adam! His best quote of the night was, ” well, now I know how to juice a watermelon by hand.” :)

    • says

      Yeah! He was lucky to have plenty of tips from me, such as “don’t make them extra boozy like I did — they won’t freeze properly and they’ll majorly kick everyone’s ass.” Adam Wehmeyer: Master Hand Juicer.

      Tic Tac, sir?

  4. says

    I’ve been wanting to try a shrub for some time–the name is fun, and somehow the idea of the vinegar in with sweet fruit is appealing. I’ve seen several recipes in my Linda Ziedrich book — do you have the Joy of Jams? (Unless it’s in the Joy of Pickles, also by her…)

    • says

      Oooo, I don’t, but I’m adding them to my cookbook wishlist! (There are so many amazing books out there, I feel like I barely know a fraction of them, and own even less.) There are a few shrub recipes in the Homemade Soda book that I own, but I’d love to have more inspiration. I really can’t get enough of these things. They are so wonderfully tangy, and have a much better shelf life than soda syrups. I found some gorgeous rhubarb in NY the other weekend, so now I have 5 quarts of strawberry-rhubarb shrub abrewin’ in the pantry, and a raspberry-lemon one in the works as well. Shrub madness!!

    • says

      Hi Taunna,

      If you’re looking for the recipe, you can find it here. (I’m also looking into selling my various shrub creations, so they may be available for purchase sometime soon too.)

    • says

      The blog that I originally found a shrub recipe on stated that they would keep for up to one year in the fridge, or six months unrefrigerated. Other posts have mentioned keeping them for only a couple months in the fridge. The longest I’ve had one in my fridge was around six months, and it still tasted just fine.

  5. Noelia says

    Can you play with the vinegar amount, say 1/2 c of balsamic vinegar instead of a whole cup? Thank you for this recipe. Can’t wait for summer!

    • says

      You could maybe decrease it to 3/4 of a cup, but I wouldn’t go much lower than that. The sugars from the fruit and sugar are nicely balanced out by the tang of the vinegar. Also, the vinegar acts as a preservative, so I’d be wary of what decreasing it could do to the shelf life of the shrub.

  6. Kristin T says

    Great recipe — I just tried it. A quick copyediting note, though: you repeatedly say “macerate” when you mean “mash.” It was a bit confusing the first time I read it. (Macerate just means when a fruit (or something else) softens by sitting in liquid; so here, the maceration occurs when you add sugar to extrude the cherries’ liquid and then let it sit undisturbed for a period of time. When you say “macerate until everything is broken up” or “macerate, trying to crush as much fruit as possible,” it seems like what you mean is “mash,” “crush,” etc.)

  7. Mary Lickley says

    I’m making the Cherry Shrub right now, on to the 7 – 9 day fermentation time. My sis and I have these vintage milk bottles in our Antique space, really excited to try this drink. When i was a child my grandmother used to make a little summertime drink with vinegar, Sugar and water. We called them potions, they were tasty.

  8. Grellot says

    I made this with wild black cherries, the real tiny black ones. Delicious. Especially with a shot of Gentleman Jack in it.

  9. Don says

    This is a crazy awesome drink add-on. I don’t think you need peppercorns and buy a large strainer so you don’t need to fiddle with cheesecloth. I’ve tried this alcoholic, non-alcoholic, beer, and might try it on some vanilla ice cream tonight. I buy frozen pitted cherries and trader joe’s balsamic.


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