What Is Shrub? + How To Make It!

How To Make Shrub (Vinegar and Fruit Syrup) at Home
Shrub is a concentrated fermented syrup made of fruit or vegetables, sugar, and vinegar. It’s refreshingly sweet and tart, good for digestion, and best of all, very simple to make!

In this comprehensive guide, you will learn the ins and outs of what shrub is, how to make it, and how to enjoy it. Happy shrubbing!

🤶🏼 Oldie But A Goodie

The concept of shrub is very old– people have been drinking vinegar for thousands of years all over the world!
Before refrigeration, vinegar was an excellent way to preserve fresh produce flavor. Once refrigerators were invented shrubs faded from popularity, but there has been a resurgence of this tangy syrup during the past decade.

✨ Benefits

Shrub boasts many beneficial properties besides being delicious.
Vinegar, a main ingredient of shrub, is very good for you (so we can call shrub cocktails “healthy”, okay? ::Wink::) Vinegar promotes saliva production, stimulates appetite, aids in digestion, and helps the body absorb essential minerals like calcium. Pass the vodka.
Shrub can preserve seasonal flavor for up to a year, which means you can enjoy sunshiney strawberries in the dead of winter.
Have some produce past its prime? Don’t throw it out, reduce your kitchen’s food waste and make shrub with it instead! In fact, there is not reason to use pristine produce for shrub. Use the scraps and second.
Though shrub does contain quite a lot of sugar, it should be noted that overall shrub is a healthier alternative to sodas and cocktail mixes.

How To Make Shrub (Vinegar and Fruit Syrup) at Home
These are jars of shrub I made for my shrub class at The Works Seattle– while all made with the same fruit, (strawberries), the vinegars, sugars, and processes were all different. You can see how much the color varies, and the flavor varies too!

💀 Anatomy Of A Shrub

Shrub is made with 3 basic ingredients: produce, sugar, and vinegar. A sort of fourth ingredient is time, as shrub reaches its peak flavor after 2 weeks of aging. During the aging process, the sugar and vinegar begin to equalize, developing into a flavor that is more produce-forward. When shrub is freshly made, the flavor is very vinegar forward, and the flavors sort of seem to go out in all directions instead of feeling harmonious.

Keep in mind that more than one type of produce, sweetener, and/or vinegar can be combined to make shrub. It’s fully customizable! If you aren’t sure which flavors to pair, sniff your ingredients together and/or do a taste preview by dipping your produce into your vinegar and tasting. It isn’t exactly the same experience, but should be enough to guide you in a general direction. (P.S. Don’t worry, it’s hard to make a bad-tasting shrub.)

🍓 Produce

Produce is generally the flavor star of shrub. While often made with fruit, many vegetables make lovely shrub too— personally, I like celery.

In order for the produce to best infuse its flavor, it needs to be broken down according to its density. While delicate berries like blueberries and raspberries can be left whole because they are naturally porous and soft, anything larger needs to be broken down. Chop juicy produce like strawberries and tomatoes, and shred higher density produce like carrots and apples. You are also welcome to use a food processor for this task. The more surface area that is exposed is directly tied to the amount of flavor that will be released.

🍭 Sugars/Sweeteners

Granulated sugar is the most commonly used sweeter for shrub. White sugar is a great option because it has a neutral flavor that lets the other flavors shine. 

Turbinado or raw sugar has more richness of flavor, making it especially complimentary to rich or jammy fruits like cherries and plums. This is my personal favorite because I prefer its warmer flavor.

Brown sugar may add too much deep molasses flavor to your shrub to use on its own. If you want to use it, try using just a tablespoon or two along with another type of sugar to balance it out. It is also dark in color and will add dark color to the shrub.

Honey or maple syrup can also be used for shrub, with a few reservations:
Keep in mind that honey and maple syrup are sweeter than sugar, so use ½ or ⅔ as much. When used for a cold process shrub, honey and maple syrup will not macerate produce in the same way that sugar will, so using these sweeteners will yield a lighter, less concentrated flavor. When used for a hot process shrub, the same amount of flavor and concentration that would be produced with sugar can be expected. (More on cold and hot process coming up below!)

🍷 Vinegars

Virtually any vinegar can be used for shrub, just be aware of how its flavor and color will affect the finished product. Remember, more than one type of vinegar can be mixed to achieve the flavor that you want!
The most common types of vinegar used in shrub are apple cider vinegar and white wine vinegar. These are both great options because they lend a fairly neutral flavor backdrop for the shrub.

Red wine vinegar has a jammy quality, making it a nice match for berries, cherries, and warm spices. Cut with white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar for a lighter flavor.

Balsamic vinegar is too rich and deep to use on its own for most shrubs. Try adding anywhere from a splash to 25% balsamic to your overall vinegar content instead! Balsamic vinegar pairs well with strawberries, cherries, and peaches.

Other vinegar options include rice vinegar, which is light, sweet, and delicate and coconut vinegar, which has a tropical flavor and goes well with mango, pineapple, and kiwi.

🍊 Zingers (Additional Flavors)

In addition to the flavors brought to the table by your choice of produce, sugar, and vinegar, more flavors can be added to your shrub in the form of spices, citrus zests, and/or fresh or dry herbs.

Some zingers, like dense whole spices and dried herbs, lend themselves better to the hot process because heat helps release their flavor. When using whole spices for cold process shrub, crush slightly with the side of a knife or the bottom of a small dish. 

A microplane is great for zesting citrus and grating ginger. If you don’t have a microplane, use a knife to finely mince these ingredients instead. Chop fresh herbs roughly to release flavor. Just like with the produce, the more surface area that is exposed is directly tied to the amount of flavor that will be released.

Zingers should be added during maceration (the 1-3 day sugar and produce breakdown) for cold process shrub, or during cooking for hot process shrub to infuse flavor.

I suggest using 0-3 zingers per shrub. With more than 3 zingers, the flavors tend to get muddy. 

Here are some Ideas for produce/zinger pairings!


  • Strawberry: black peppercorns, lime zest, basil, thyme, clove, cinnamon
  • Raspberry: ginger, lemon zest, mint, star anise
  • Cherry: cinnamon, cardamom, clove, vanilla
  • Blueberry: basil, cinnamon, lemon zest, lavender
  • Blackberry: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, mint, sage
  • Pear: cinnamon, ginger, clove, rosemary, black pepper, star anise, vanilla
  • Plum: allspice, star anise, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, clove, lavender, lemon zest, mint, orange, sage, thyme, vanilla
  • Peach/ Apricot/ Nectarine: cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, vanilla, black peppercorns, orange, lime zest
  • Apple: allspice, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, clove, lemon zest


  • Carrot: tarragon, ginger, orange zest, peppercorn, clove, cinnamon
  • Cucumber: mint, basil, dill, lemon zest, lime zest
  • Celery: tarragon, dill, sage, rosemary, thyme, lemon zest
  • Tomato: basil, tarragon, dill, peppercorns, lime zest, lemon zest
  • Parsnips: peppercorn, star anise, clove, ginger, cinnamon
  • Fennel: peppercorn, lemon zest, ginger, basil
How To Make Shrub (Vinegar and Fruit Syrup) at Home
Pictured from front to back: cold process celery shrub made with white sugar and white wine vinegar, cold process strawberry-thyme shrub made with white sugar and apple cider vinegar, and cold process blueberry-lemon-mint shrub made with white sugar and apple cider vinegar. (The ice cubes were made with an assortment of edible flowers from the local farmer’s market.)

✌️ Two Ways To Make Shrub: Hot Process + Cold Process

There are two approaches to making shrub: hot process and cold process.
Both processes use a simple 1:1:1 ratio, and each has pros and cons.

🔥 Hot Process

In the hot process method, produce and zingers are cooked down with water and sugar, then the solids are strained off and the liquid is combined with vinegar. Because of the addition of water, the overall flavor of the shrub becomes a bit more diluted than a shrub made using the cold process, which uses no water. Without water (just sugar and produce over heat) you would make a compote, which does not contain enough liquid to make shrub.

Some produce lends itself to the hot process better than others. For example, a shrub made with cranberries will be much more flavorful when made using the hot process, but cucumbers might lose their signature freshness when cooked, and are better suited for the cold process.

  • Pros: shrub made with the hot process are ready for aging in a half hour or less. The use of heat in the hot process serves some produce and zingers (like cranberries and cinnamon sticks) better than the cold process would.
  • Cons: Some freshness and nuanced flavor of the produce is lost, and the addition of water in the mixture dilutes the shrub overall.

Hot Process Shrub Recipe

Servings: 3 cups


  • 1 cup sugar/sweetener of your choice use ½ cup or ⅔ of a cup for honey or maple syrup
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup produce chopped or shredded if dense
  • 1 cup vinegar of your choice
  • 1 tbsp zinger spices, herbs, citrus zest, optional


  • Combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved.
  • Add the fruit and any zingers (if using) and bring the mixture to a low simmer. Let it bubble away until the syrup has become the color of the produce and the fruit looks tired, about 15-30 minutes.
  • Off the heat, stir in the vinegar. Strain off through a fine mesh sieve and discard solids. Pour shrub into a clean pint jar or container, and store in the refrigerator.
  • Hot process can be enjoyed right away after chilling, but I still prefer it a bit aged.

❄️ Cold Process

In the cold process method, produce and zingers are tossed with sugar and left to sit for a few days in the refrigerator to macerate, then the solids are strained off and the liquid is combined with vinegar.

  • Pros: the sugar slowly draws the juices out of the fruit, creating a richer and more flavorful syrup.
    No heat means the fresh flavor of the produce is maintained.
    Because no water is added, the flavor is less diluted.
  • Cons: cold process is a longer and slightly more complicated process.

Cold Process Shrub Recipe

Servings: 2 cups


  • 1 cup sugar/sweetener of your choice honey or maple syrup is not recommended for cold process
  • 1 cup produce chopped or shredded if dense
  • 1 cup vinegar of your choice
  • 1 tbsp zinger spices, herbs, citrus zest, optional


  • Pour sugar into a 1 pint mason jar or container. Top with produce and any zingers (if using.) Close the lid and shake to combine. If it doesn’t mix right away, don’t worry, it will mingle over time.
  • Refrigerate for 1-3 days, stirring and shaking the contents of the jar often, at least once daily.
  • Once the mixture is juicy, remove from the refrigerator and pour over a fine mesh sieve. Be sure to get all the sugar out of the jar. Pour the vinegar over the solids and use a spoon to press out as much liquid as possible.
  • Discard solids and pour the shrub into a clean jar. Store the shrub in the refrigerator. For optimal flavor, age 2 weeks.
How To Make Shrub (Vinegar and Fruit Syrup) at Home

😚 Friendly Reminders For Shrub Making

  • When making shrubs, always use clean containers.
  • Use the recipe 1:1:1 + 1 tbsp optional zinger.
  • While tender fruits like blueberries and raspberries can be used whole, cut up larger fruits and veggies like strawberries and tomatoes. Higher density fruits and vegetables such as apples, rhubarb, carrots, and celery need to be either grated or pureed to be broken down enough to release their juices/flavor into the shrub.
  • Don’t forget to label and date your shrubs so you know what’s in them and how old they are!
  • Store cold process shrubs in the fridge for 1-3 days to macerate, stirring everyday.
  • Give your shrub 2 weeks to mature for optimal flavor.
  • Prepared shrub can last up to a year in the fridge. Use your best judgement: if it’s moldy, cloudy, or slimy, throw it out.

🍹 How To Enjoy Your Shrub:

  • Mocktail: Add a splash of shrub to club soda
  • Spritzer: Swap out the club soda for champagne or sparkling wine
  • Cocktail: The 1, 2, 3 recipe:
    1 ounce shrub
    2 ounces booze (gin, whiskey, vodka, rum all work!)
    3 ounces club soda

(Psst! More drink recipes here)

How To Make Shrub (Vinegar and Fruit Syrup) at Home

I also teach this material as a class at The Works Seattle!

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