This 4th of July, party like a colonial. Drink shrub!


It’s thought the word “shrub” derives from the Arabic word meaning “drink.” Granted, it doesn’t evoke a mouthwatering image, but there’s rarely any rhyme or reason to naming our drinks. Consider today’s Moscow Mule, Mohito, or Sex on a Beach. Two hundred years ago it was flips, bounces, and shrubs.

Shrub, a blend of fruit, sugar, and vinegar, was a colonial favorite. People took pride in concocting their own unique ‘receipts’ (recipes), and as such, there is no one way to make it.

Drinking Vinegar

Yes, vinegar. Colonial housewives preserved fruit with sugar. Left long enough, the sugared fruit ferments. The fermented liquid becomes drinking vinegar.

Frugality being the more of the day, tossing the flavored vinegar wasn’t an option. Waste not, want not. Culinary uses were devised. One was the shrub syrup.

Shrub Syrup

When mixed with sugar, drinking vinegar transforms into a yummy sweet-tart flavored shrub syrup. Two sources of bottled shrub syrup are Tait Farms and Shrub & Co.

Mix the syrup with soda water for a refreshing summer cooler, or spike it for a refreshing summer cocktail. Rum from the West Indies was a favorite mixer back in those days. Still is.

If you’re ambitious, try making your own shrub syrup. Start with the drinking vinegar. offers advice on creating drinking vinegar from scratch. Once it’s ready, add 2 cups of fruit to 1 pint of vinegar. Sweeten to taste with 1 1/2 to 2 cups of sugar.

If you’re not ambitious, just add vinegar to sugared fruit. Huffington Post recently published a few recipes online, courtesy of Sweet Paul Magazine.

All that’s left is to find a mug and enjoy. Probably without cubed ice. To really get in the swing of things drink your shrub from 18th-century replica glassware or pewter-ware. The unique blown glass mug shown below is from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. What a treasure!


1700s Blown Glass Mug (U.S.) MFA, Boston (William H. Fenn III Glass Collection)

1700s Blown Glass Mug (U.S.) MFA, Boston (William H. Fenn III Glass Collection)


Your easiest option is to try a local tavern that keeps up with the trends. Shrubs are back in vogue.

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