5 shrubs to try in cocktails this summer
For cocktail and mocktail enthusiasts alike, shrubs – the non-alcoholic, sweet-tart syrup produced by heating fruits, herbs and spices in vinegar – are a great way to brighten up your beverage of choice. Locally, bartenders and retail mixologists are producing their own shrubs, using them in thirst-quenching summer drinks and selling them at area shops for home use. Try them in cocktails at these restaurant bars, then pick some up to add to your bar cart.
For bartender Craig Cunningham, what started as an at-home experiment during quarantine blossomed into a deep appreciation for shrubs, which he now produces at scale for use at the bar. “As with all things alcohol-related, shrub-making takes a little time and a little bit of experimentation before you find what tastes good,” he noted. His experiments ranged from the more traditional blood orange-cardamom shrub currently featured in the Sanguine cocktail to one using roasted pumpkin, cinnamon and cardamom. The Strawberry Manilow includes a balsamic-mint shrub that’s also flavored with strawberries, raspberries, cedar leaves, Indian bay leaves and mace. Cunningham adds gin, Cocchi Americano and lemon juice to create a complex drink that he said has been one of Polite Society’s top-sellers to date.
1923 Park Ave., St. Louis, 314.325.2553, politesocietystl.com
Blood & Sand
At Blood & Sand, bar manager Jake Smith combines apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar and mirin to create shrubs with a “well-rounded balance between sweet and sour,” he said. Try the Naughty Girls Need Love Too - Samantha Fox, which uses blood orange shrub combined with pamplemousse rosé, Hendrick’s gin and lime, or the Day Glow Fire - Future Islands, made with Milagro Silver tequila infused with roasted aloha peppers and fat-washed with avocado, fire-roasted corn syrup, orange and a cilantro-lime shrub.
1500 St. Charles St., St. Louis, 314.241.7263, bloodandsandstl.com
Heirloom Bottling Co.
Local shrub producer Heirloom Bottling Co. started as an idea in founder and CEO Brad Zulick’s kitchen. “I was looking for a quick and easy way to make batch cocktails for a group of friends, so I made some fruit-centric shrubs and added liquor. People loved them,” he said of his shrubs, whose flavor profile he considers somewhere between a syrup and a drinking vinegar. Heirloom Bottling now offers five unique shrub flavors, made using organic apple cider vinegar, fresh fruits, sugar, herbs and spices; flavors include strawberry-rosemary (which has no added sugars), blueberry-sage and blackberry-lemon-mint.
Civil Alchemy co-founder and chief operating officer Ian VanDam said customers come to his store searching for shrubs for a variety of uses. “They’ll add shrubs to their favorite liquor or just soda water for a non-alcoholic summer spritz. Shrubs have been huge for the non-alcoholic cocktail scene,” he added. “We even see people alternating drinking weekends with low- or no-proof weekends, just to shake it up a little.” In addition to the Heirloom Bottling Co. shrubs that it stocks, the Webster Groves shop also features Sideyard Shrubs out of the Bay Area, with inventive flavors like yuzu, strawberry, passionfruit and kumquat.
8154 Big Bend Blvd., Webster Groves, 314.801.7577, civilalchemy.com
In addition to Heirloom Bottling Co.’s sampler set of shrubs and individual 8-ounce bottles of the blackberry-lemon-mint and blueberry-sage flavors, Intoxicology also carries Cool Hand Co.’s blackberry-cocoa nib-orange peel, strawberry-hibiscus-jalapeño and pineapple-turmeric-ginger shrubs. Co-owner Melissa Pfeiffer said the shop often stocks a copy of Michael Dietsch’s book Shrubs: An Old-Fashioned Drink for Modern Times, for those particularly interested in DIY shrub creation and inventive recipes.
4321 Manchester Ave., St. Louis, 314.833.3088, intoxicologystl.com