food

Peach Shrub

The heat of summer has arrived, way past schedule in this part of the country.  While May and early June are typically steamy here in KC, this year we had lots of rain and cool temperatures.  On Saturday the thermometer climbed to 97 degrees and even though I knew it was time, I still went forth kicking and screaming.

We had some good friends over for grilling and good times and it turned out that by trying to use up some less than desirable peaches the previous week, I'd planned the perfect drink.

Shrubs, in case you're wondering, are vinegar drinks.  They are the fruit- or vegetable-based cousins of switchels and both drinks have been around for centuries.  The addition of vinegar both preserves the fruit and refreshes the drinker.

As I've mentioned before, I'm really into dabbling in lost methods of preservation and this certainly applies.  I found myself with a big bag of peaches that, while gloriously fragrant, refused to ever soften.  I couldn't bear to banish them directly to the compost pile.  I'd vaguely heard of shrub cocktails popping up in the trendier bars in progressive cities, so I thought I'd do my homework and give it a try myself.

Shrubs don't demand skill or active prep time from you, only excess or inferior produce and some lazy refrigerator time.  They're extremely adaptable, suitable to so many different fruits and vegetables as long as one follows the ratio of fruit to sugar to vinegar.  The resulting liquid keeps for a year in the refrigerator and can be used to make both cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks -- the perfect ingredient for a group containing one pregnant lady and several imbibers.

I added some basil to mine because I love the way its herbal earthiness balances the sweetness of the peaches.  When it was done, I poured the shrub into a heavy growler for safe keeping and set it out for cocktails.

Although the shrub can be sipped straight, it's a bit of a punch in the mouth by itself.  Diluted with sparkling water, it's the perfect antidote to the sweltering heat and humidity of summer.  The recipes for the shrub and the cocktail, both of which were determined by all to be keepers, can be found below.

Notes: The above right photo is a sweet Instagram shot by my friend Elizabeth Cardinal.  The bowls contain delicious chipotle-rosemary nuts and the perfect recipe can be found here.  The growler pictured at bottom left was a gift from the town of Eutin, Germany to my husband when he performed a concert there.

Peach Shrub

makes 1 quart

  • 2 pounds peaches, pitted and diced
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • a handful of basil leaves (optional)

Combine the peaches and sugar in a large bowl and stir well.  Cover and refrigerate for two days.  Remove the peach mixture from the refrigerator and give it a good stir to dissolve any sugar in the bottom of the bowl.  Add the vinegars and basil leaves, if using, and stir well.  Cover and refrigerate again for two more days.  Strain through a fine mesh sieve, pressing on the solids to extract all the juices.  Discard the solids and store the liquid in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a year.

Peach-Basil Shrub Cocktail

  • 1 part peach shrub
  • 1 part vodka
  • 2 parts sparkling water
  • peach slice and basil sprig for garnish

Fill a large glass or jar with ice.  Pour shrub, vodka, and sparkling water over and stir.  Garnish and serve.

For a nonalcoholic beverage, combine equal parts shrub and sparkling water.