Grandma’s Favorite Summer Drink Deserves a Comeback. Here’s Why.

Grandma has known the secret to a perfect simple and refreshing drink—and you've been missing out. You can make infinite summer cocktails with this do-it-yourself syrup.

The perfect summer drink has existed all along and the only person that knew about it was Grandma. She’s been sipping on these fragrant vinegar beverages at night while you’ve been missing out. Maybe the reason you dismissed this more-fit-for-summer-than-rosé concoction is its name—the shrub. Don’t let the name put you off, though! Shrubs are the perfect combination of fruity, invigorating and brightly acidic—just the thing for sipping on the porch or serving at your next barbecue. We think Grandma would appreciate a shrub being served alongside these retro BBQ classics.

What is a shrub?

The shrub (also known as drinking vinegar) is made of three ingredients you already have at home: sugar, vinegar and fruit. One of the best things about this beverage is its versatility. You can highlight almost any fruit in a shrub. Stone fruits, berries and citrus are all great choices for shrubs (melons, however, don’t work as well, so save them for these recipes instead).

How to make it at home

Making a shrub syrup (like this delectable blackberry shrub recipe) at home only takes about 10 minutes of active time. Gather your ingredients and measure equal parts water, sugar, vinegar and fruit.

Step 1: Heat up simple syrup, muddled fruit and vinegar.

Start by simmering (not boiling—there is a difference) equal parts water and sugar over low heat until the sugar has dissolved (yep—this is just a simple syrup to start). Then add sliced or slightly mashed fruit and continue to simmer away while stirring and lightly muddling the fruit. If you want to add more flavor, consider adding a few sprigs of mint or basil. Keep simmering until the mixture has taken on the color of the fruit and the solids are very soft. Then, maintaining a gentle simmer, stir in apple cider or white vinegar. Finally place a strainer over the mouth of a glass jar and pour the mixture over the strainer. Discard any solids and store the syrup in the fridge.

Step 2: Add the mixer of your choice

Shrubs are typically spiked drinks—but if you’re looking to nix booze from this recipe, our non-alcoholic version is so very refreshing. Here are two ways to serve Grandma’s classic tipple:

Get your mocktail on

To serve a refreshing shrub mocktail, pour one tablespoon of syrup into a glass filled with ice. Add seltzer or soda water (yep, there’s a difference between those, too!) to fill the glass completely and enjoy. You can also try pairing shrub syrups with various flavored seltzers like the very popular La Croix

Make it boozy

Instead of seltzer add carbonation to your syrup with a sparkling wine. Sparkling rosé and a berry shrub are a match made in summer patio heaven. You can also add a shot of your favorite spirit to a seltzer and shrub syrup mix for a fruity, refreshing cocktail. A peach shrub pairs with a little whiskey or try gin and a few mint leaves with a strawberry shrub. The possible combinations are endless!

Next time Grandma goes to pour her nightly drinking vinegar ask her to fill your glass, too!

Here are more classic cocktails Grandma knows by heart.
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Mandy Naglich
Mandy is a food and beverage writer with bylines at WNYC, Munchies, Mic and October. She's a Certified Cicerone and award-winning homebrewer living, writing and cooking in New York City.