Homemade Shrub

Homemade Shrub

Ok, I know what you are thinking. I thought the same thing when I heard the name of this recipe. Here’s the story behind it:

For those of you who don’t know, I am a professional food stylist and photographer (check out my portfolio if you are interested). I recently took on a pretty big project for a client who had lost about 40 recipe images during a website overhaul. I was hired to remake the recipes and then style and photograph them. When I got the shot list from the client and saw the term “shrub”  in the context of something I had to make, shoot, and then want to put in my mouth…I was a little nervous. And confused – very, very confused. “Shrub” had always been that thing that lived outside my house that I liked to look at but hated to own because you have to trim them, and that involves work. Not that I don’t like work or being outside, but remember, I live in a desert where it is over 100 degree nine months out of the year. Yard work? Yeah, no.

Homemade Shrub

So I had this weird mental picture of trying to shove some shrub twigs into a glass and drink it, or on a plate and eat it…kind of like in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty when he is getting ready to backpack in the Himalayas and he eats the leaves off that huge shrub branch. Do you remember that part? Not as inspirational as the rest of the movie.

When I looked up the recipe, I became intrigued. I started doing some research and totally fell in love with this idea. 

It’s not a new idea, but any means. In fact, variations of this drink were enjoyed in England as early as the late 1500’s and reached its peak of popularity in the 17th and 18th centuries – so naturally it was also popular in the American colonial culture as well. Traditionally, vinegar was poured over berries, some sugar was tossed in and allowed to cure over night or even up to a few days. The acidity of this drink makes it well suited as an aperitif. Additionally, it can be used as a homemade alternative to cocktail bitters to showcase your individual preferences – which makes it great for entertaining. The benefit of using vinegars over citrus to acidulate drinks is that vinegar will remain clear when shaken, giving the drink a more appetizing asethetic – which makes the food stylist in me just so very happy.

Homemade Shrub

Vinegar also has some pretty awesome health benefits. 

Stuff like improving blood sugar levels by increasing insulin sensitivity, preventing plaque build up in arteries, and serving as a natural non-toxic antiseptic with antibiotic properties makes this vinegar-based drink even more appealing. Toss in a splash of club soda, seltzer, or tonic water and this makes for one very refreshing drink. There are endless possibilities here, but these are the ones I created based off of flavor profiles and personal taste.

Go head – go wild with this stuff. I think you’ll be glad you did. 

  • Lavender Plum:
  • 4 cups white vinegar
  • 3-4 springs fresh lavender
  • 4 ripe plums, pitted and sliced
  • Vanilla Peach:
  • 4 cups white vinegar
  • 2 vanilla bean pods
  • 3 ripe peaches, pitted and sliced
  1. Have a large, non-reactive bowl ready. Wash lavender carefully and pat dry with a paper towel. Heat vinegar in a medium-sized non-reactive pot over low heat. Without allowing the vinegar to boil, heat until it is just about to simmer and then remove from heat.
  2. Place your flavoring agents (fruit and spices) in the prepped, non-reactive bowl and pour in the warmed vinegar. Give the mixture a stir to combine the flavors and set aside to cool. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks - the longer the mixture sits, the stronger the flavors. Every few days, give the mix a stir to blend the flavors.
  3. Serve chilled with a carbonator of your choice (seltzer, tonic water, club soda, etc) to taste.

Homemade Shrub


  1. I have never tried a shrub – but they sure look gorgeous!!