This 3 ingredient recipe for a traditional blueberry shrub is over 300 years old! Perfect for adding to your favorite cocktails, or serving with some sparkling water for a delightfully refreshing drink. Also known as drinking vinegar, this is a simple way to preserve blueberries in the short term, paired with the benefits of honey and apple cider vinegar.
The original fruit shrubs arose from the popular fruit cordials of the 15th century, but started to take shape around the 1700's when a mixture of fruit, vinegar, and honey (or other natural sweetener) was used to preserve fruit and add flavor to beverages.
Before refrigeration, fermentation, pickling, and the use of sugar and/or acids were common ways to preserve foods. Shrubs (also known as drinking vinegars) arose out of the need to preserve food, creating a way to retain the flavor of fruit in a mixture of honey and vinegar to last for many months. This was then added to carbonated water (invented in the later part of the 18th century) to create a delicious sparkling beverage.
Fruit shrubs (like this blueberry shrub) were also used to craft cocktails, and were an excellent way to preserve seasonal or foraged fruit (although jams and jellies like my Old Fashioned Strawberry Jam were popular too). These days, our standard for both food quality and refrigeration are much different, so you can expect your fruit shrub to last anywhere from 2-6 weeks in the refrigerator.
Reasons to Love This Recipe
- It effectively preserves fruit for short term storage, adding a delicious blueberry flavor to your favorite cocktails or sparkling water.
- It contains both honey and apple cider vinegar, both of which have known health benefits.
- Naturally sweetened - Because a fruit shrub uses honey, maple syrup, or molasses, it's a naturally sweetened drink that tastes great too.
- A great way to add fruit flavor to the second fermentation of your homemade kombucha or water kefir!
- Blueberries: I highly recommend locating wild blueberries since they are smaller and sweeter, but larger cultivated blueberries are perfectly fine and delicious! That's what I used for this recipe. You could even use frozen if you plan on using the blueberry shrub syrup within the next week or so.
- Honey or Maple Syrup: You'll need a good quality natural sweetener to make this centuries old beverage. I prefer honey or maple syrup, but you could use cane sugar for a modern spin. Molasses could also be used but the flavor is very strong.
- Vinegar: Any kind of vinegar can be used, but the best flavor and health benefits come from raw apple cider vinegar with the mother. I love the Bragg's brand of ACV.
- Sparkling water: Also known as carbonated water, seltzer, club soda, or Perrier. This is for serving your finished blueberry shrub syrup.
Equipment and Tools:
- Wide mouth jar
- Jar lid
- Pounding tool - You can use a kraut pounder, or even the end of a wooden spoon and some elbow grease!
- Mesh strainer - You need a fine mesh strainer (I use this one) to strain the blueberries off and reserve the liquid. A typical colander will let through small pieces of mashed fruit.
How to Make a Fruit Shrub
Making a fruit shrub is incredibly easy and requires just about 10 minutes of prep work. After a brief chilling, your shrub will be ready to strain and enjoy in no time at all!
To get started, add your berries to a clean wide mouth mason jar OR glass jar with a lid. Mash the fruit until well broken down. The goal is to completely macerate the blueberries.
Next add in the vinegar and your sweetener of choice. Traditionally honey, maple syrup or molasses was used. You could use organic cane sugar if you prefer.
Finally, stir everything together to distribute the honey and apple cider vinegar.
Chilling and Resting
Once everything has been stirred together, add a lid to the jar and place in the fridge (or the counter if only resting 1-2 hours).
You'll want the mixture to chill/rest for at least an hour to allow the flavors to begin to develop, but I highly recommend waiting for 24 hours. This ensures the honey and vinegar is fully infused with the flavor from the blueberries.
Straining the Mixture
Once the blueberry shrub mixture has rested for at least 1 hour (or up to 48 hours), you're ready to strain and reserve the liquid.
Start off by setting a fine mesh strainer over a glass measuring cup or bowl. Pour the shrub mixture through the strainer. The macerated blueberries will collect in the strainer, while the infused liquid (blueberry shrub syrup) will collect below.
The collected liquid is the blueberry shrub syrup, while the mashed blueberries can be composted, given to chickens, or added to smoothies and yogurt (if you don't mind the stronger taste of ACV).
Transfer the syrup to a clean airtight bottle or jar and store in the fridge for 2-6 weeks. Discard if there are any signs of spoilage such as an "off" smell, mold, or any other signs of bacterial.
Preparing a Blueberry Shrub Drink
Once you have prepared your blueberry shrub syrup, you're ready to make an easy drink (or cocktail) any time.
The most basic way of preparing a blueberry shrub drink though is with sparking water!
To prepare a sparkling beverage, simply use 1-2 tablespoons of fruit shrub syrup for every 1 cup of carbonated water. First add the syrup to the jar, then add in the carbonated water. Give it a gentle stir and garnish with mint, lemon, or additional fresh blueberries.
Serve and enjoy!
If you would like, you can create variations of the basic shrub recipe and add your favorite aromatics right into the fruit mixture (prior to straining). This will infuse the liquid with your preferred taste, and creates a delicious and complex flavor.
Here are a few popular additions:
- Lemon balm
Tips for Success
- Use good quality, fresh berries with no signs of damage or mold. This will ensure you get the longest storage life from your finished blueberry shrub syrup.
- Many fruits (including blueberries) can stain your clothes easily. Since we are mashing them, take care to cover your clothes with an apron and use a high sided jar or bowl to minimize mess.
- You leftover blueberry mash doesn't have to be thrown away! - You can give it to your chickens, toss small amounts into smoothies, serve over yogurt, or compost it.
- 1 cup mashed blueberries (approximately 1 ¼-1 ½ cups whole)
- 1 cup honey or maple syrup
- 1 cup raw apple cider vinegar
- Carbonated water, for serving
- Add the blueberries to a wide-mouth mason jar or glass container with a lid.
- Mash the blueberries with a kraut pounder or the end of a wooden spoon until they are completely macerated and broken down.
- Pour in the honey (or maple syrup) and apple cider vinegar and stir until well combined.
- Add a lid to your shrub and place it in the refrigerator to chill for at least an hour, or up to a full 24-48 hours. This provides an opportunity for the flavors to mingle and for the fruit to break down further.
- Once the shrub has chilled, set a fine mesh strainer over a glass bowl or measuring cup and pour the mixture through. The blueberries will catch in the strainer, with the shrub base catching in the bowl below.
- Add the finished shrub to an airtight jar or bottle and store for 2-6 weeks. Discard if there are any signs of spoilage.
- To prepare a blueberry shrub drink, use 1-2 tablespoons of the shrub mixture for every 1 cup of carbonated water. Pour the shrub into the bottom of the glass and top off with the sparkling water, stirring gently to combine.
- Serve with lemon slices or mint sprigs and enjoy!
Carbonated Water: This can be made using a Sodastream, or you can purchase it in bottles at your local grocery store. It comes under various labels including club soda, sparkling water, seltzer, or fizzy water. A popular name brand is Perrier.
Other fruits: You can make this easy shrub recipe with any fruits, although berries tend to work best. Just keep the ratio of 1 part fruit (measure once mashed), 1 part honey or maple syrup, and 1 part vinegar and you can get as creative as you like.
Aromatics: Feel free to include your favorite aromatic herbs or spices to add interesting flavor combinations. Here are a few of the most popular:
Nutrition Information:Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 122Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 4mgCarbohydrates: 32gFiber: 0gSugar: 31gProtein: 0g
Please note that some of my blog posts here at Little Home in the Making may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. Please see my Disclaimer for more information.