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Why Bartenders Are Making Cocktails With Drinking Vinegars Called Shrubs

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Sour drinks are in. 

Tart drinks are having a moment, from the profusion of new kombucha brands to cocktails built off shrubs or drinking vinegars: sweetened vinegar-based syrups infused with fruit and spices that date back centuries. 

Drinking vinegars, also known as shrubs, refer to both the flavored, sweetened, vinegar-based syrups added to flat or sparkling water to create a soda of sorts, but the terms also apply to the actual beverage itself, which can contain alcohol, too.

Most shrubs just mix sugar, fruit, and vinegar... But if the fruit ferments, the shrub is probiotic!

Have you tried this?

I tried the standard shrub and it was good:

I have not tried the fermented shrub yet. But I'm ready. 

For centuries vinegar has been touted for a myriad of health benefits, and given America's current health kick, it's no surprise that these drinks are gaining steam both with and without booze.

Chef Andy Ricker of Pok Pok, longtime proselytizer of Thai food in the US, was one of the first to popularize drinking vinegars when he started serving them at his restaurants in Portland, New York, and now Los Angeles. Says Ricker, "I first discovered the vinegars while shopping at Asian markets in 2006 ... and realized they would go great with the food of Pok Pok." The drinks proved so popular that that year Ricker launched a line of bottled drinking vinegars under the name "Som," which is an old Thai word for "sour." Most Thai now use the word "phriaw" to reference sour flavors, but the name for vinegar is "naam som" or "sour water." The syrups — made from palm vinegar, cane sugar (or honey), citric acid, salt and fruit concentrate — must be diluted with water and/or booze and come in flavors like Thai Basil, Ginger, and Tamarind.

The Som line is just one of many small-batch drinking vinegar/shrub brands on the market. Japanese drinking vinegar company Genki-Su, which sells versions made with coconut vinegar and honey, has no problem capitalizing on drinking vinegar's purported health benefits, citing everything from decreased muscle pain to better digestion and metabolism to lowered cholesterol and blood pressure levels. 

A 16 oz bottle of Som costs $15!

Cocktails made with shrubs can use even more expensive drinking vinegars!

$15 for a 12.7 oz bottle:

$22 to $24 for a 16 oz bottle:

Examples of where to drink:

Cosme in New York combines mezcal, gin, vermouth, shiso shrub, ginger, lime and dehydrated pineapple in the El Ninja.

Los Angeles' Drago Centro serves a drink called the Shrewd Litigant, which calls for rum, lime and a housemade blackberry-balsamic shrub.

And, finally, the bartenders at Rocco's in Seattle offer a build-your-own shrub cocktail on their menu. Choose between two shrubs: Blackberry-Vanilla with Dry Curaçao or Pineapple-Paprika-Champagne Vinegar with Plantation Rum, then add any spirit and soda.

Great Vice article on Drinking Vinegar:

According to the Daily Mail, it’s “time to forget green juice.”

The secret to health and glowing skin is, it bleats, is “drinking VINEGAR” and now, as if you needed any further nudging towards the condiment cupboard, “Megan Fox and Miranda Kerr’s favourite ‘ferments’ are going mainstream.”

Those who regularly drink green juice will attest that it’s pretty difficult to “forget” it in a hurry—such is the profound effect it can have on the bowels if you drink enough of it. Maybe that’s just me. Anyway, this drinking vinegar thing, along with all things fermented, appears to be going off (pun fully and constitutionally intended). Every restaurant worth their methane is brewing up something or other; beers, pickles, kimchis, and home-made sourdoughs so alive-and-kicking, you almost want to set them a place at the table and ask what they think of the butter.

Drinking vinegar is still what trend forecasters may or may not call a “micro-trend” here in the UK and is highly, highly likely to make those who don’t live in either a) a hippie commune in Stroud, b) in probiotic-loving California or c), in a metropolitan postcode where plucky young brewers are opening small-scale craft breweries quite sceptical. But really, drinking vinegars—or “shrubs“—are a tipple as old as time. Certainly older than your penchant for sour bread.

Back in 17th-century England, shrubs were a way to preserve surplus fruit, made by macerating whatever was to hand—apples, berries, etc.—with sugar before passing through a sieve and then adding vinegar (usually cider). Vinegary drinks go back further than the 17th century, though. Poor Romans would add date vinegar—poscato water to make it palatable, and the culinary application of vinegar goes back to the Ancient Egyptians.

As for vinegar’s health benefits, we can but look to the father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, who prescribed apple cider vinegar left, right, and centre for myriad ills. My granny was onto something every time she gave me a tablespoon of vinegar for the “dicky tum” I’d often get when I stayed with her. It may have been Sarson’s that she gave me—I’ll never know. She’s not around to ask anymore.

Back to the modern day, though, where vinegar as anything other than a salad dressing component is quietly getting people excited. Here in the UK we have a lot of catching up to do those on the other side of the Atlantic, where I’m told on good authority that shrubs have been A Thing for a while now. A friend who visited Portland recently said he “literally couldn’t move” for “sipping vinegar.”


eww. It's one thing if you choose to take a teaspoon or two of ACV for health reasons but another to add it to pleasurable drinks. Methinks Chef Andy is pulling a fast one everyone.

Good for him though of getting this degree of hype.

I keep finding more reviews of it that say it's good for us AND delicious:

Shrubs were actually very popular in Colonial and frontier America! Think about it: they didn't have lemons. So everything we use lemons for, they used vinegar for. They mention it in the Little House on the Prairie books.

Kinda like drinking kim chee? *shudder*

It's actually nothing like drinking kim chee. It's much more refreshing:

The El Ninja sounds delish!

"...combines mezcal, gin, vermouth, shiso shrub, ginger, lime and dehydrated pineapple in the El Ninja."

Keanu whoa gif pandawhale

Adam, when you come to Hawaii I'll spike your mai tai with a little apple cider vinegar. :)

Interestingly, here's an article from a lady whose husband makes his own kombucha and she prefers shrubs!  Also, helps explain the differences.

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