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Strawberry-White Balsamic Shrub (Inspired by ABOSAA)

Strawberry-White Balsamic Shrub (Inspired by ABOSAA)

A Breath of Snow and Ashes

“Lemon shrub, ma’am?” A wilting slave, gleaming with sweat, offered me yet another tray, and I took a glass. I was dripping with perspiration, my legs aching and my throat dried with talking. At this point, I didn’t care what was in the glass, provided it was wet. I changed my opinion instantly upon tasting it; it was lemon juice and barley water, and while it was wet, I was much more inclined to pour it down the neck of my gown than to drink it. I edged unobtrusively toward a laburnum bush, intending to pour the drink into it, but was forestalled by the appearance of Neil Forbes, who stepped out from behind it.

Diana Gabaldon, A Breath of Snow and Ashes (Chapter 54 – Flora MacDonald’s Barbecue)

Strawberry-Blueberries That’s hardly a glowing recommendation from Claire, so I don’t blame you if you’re a wee bit skeptical about my recipe choice for today. But before you judge me too harshly, you should know that shrubs are making a comeback  – they’ve undergone a bit of a facelift in culinary/cocktail circles as of late, and you’ll now find them on summertime hipster bar menus everywhere, in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic forms. Shrubs have their roots in the Middle East — the word comes from the Arabic “sharab,” meaning a drink — and the early varieties used nuts, spices and rose petals for flavor.  On the other hand, Colonial America-era shrubs, like the one Claire sampled, were more utilitarian, meant simply to preserve fruits for later in the year, when fresh pickings were slim/non-existent. Modern mixologists are back to experimenting with more flavourful shrubs that are much more acceptable to today’s discerning palates. Strawberry White Balsamic Shrub This Strawberry-White Balsamic is a delicious example of a new-age shrub. Sweet, slightly tart and utterly refreshing.  I hope you’re inspired to start one of your own.

Strawberry-White Balsamic Shrub

:  A colourful, fruity, sweet-and-sour syrup that will leave you feeling refreshed on a hot summer day. Yield: About 3 Cups

  • Strawberries, hulled and chopped – 2 Cups
  • Sugar – 1 to 1½ Cups
  • White Balsamic Vinegar – 2 Cups
  • Peppercorns – 6 (optional)

Combine strawberries and sugar in a large jar. When sugar has dissolved, stir in vinegar and optional peppercorns. Cover with lid and refrigerate for 5 days, stirring once/day. Taste. If too vinegary, add more sugar (up to 1 cup), stir to dissolve and return to fridge for 2 more days. Strain through fine mesh strainer, pressing on fruit to extract juice. Store in a covered jar in the fridge for up to 6 months. Discard the fruit, or freeze it for later. Stir into water or soda and serve over ice. Experimental cocktails with vodka or gin are also encouraged… Notes:

  • My batch was made with 1 cup of sugar and inexpensive vinegar. My Englishman (who has a sweet tooth) would have preferred 1½ cups of sugar, but I enjoy the slight tartness of my lower-sugar shrub. He adds a bit of simple syrup to his, once it’s mixed with soda.
  • The peppercorns add a very subtle note. A few basil leaves could be interesting as well.
  • My balsamic-soaked strawberries went into the freezer after straining. I’ll be making a batch of Balsamic-Strawberry Ice Cream very soon.)
  • This shrub also makes a very tasty salad dressing. Mix 1 tble shrub with 3 tble olive oil, minced garlic, salt and pepper.
  • (I also made a Blueberry-White-Wine-Vinegar Shrub with lemon zest, but it’s sharp vinegary taste didn’t go down well, no matter how much sugar I added.  Life in the OK kitchen is about experiments…some of them work splendidly, others are only fit to water that laburnum bush.)


  1. Bullrem
    July 24, 2014 at 5:50 am

    I know I read this, but truly I have never in my circle heard of the drink. Your recipe sounds very interesting. I chuckled to myself with Clarie’s description of the drink and then you saying you could make a salad dressing with it also. Helen in Ark.

    • Theresa
      July 24, 2014 at 8:57 am

      Give it a try and let me know what you think, Helen!

  2. Jacque Watkins
    July 24, 2014 at 9:26 am

    I have fresh strawberries and apple cidar vinegar ? Gonna try this today.
    For many years whenever we have colds, I make my “miracle cure” and it always works. Tastes horrible at first.
    1/2 cup apple cidar vinegar
    1/2 cup warm water
    As much honey as you want
    Cayenne pepper (optional)

    • Jacque Watkins
      August 20, 2014 at 3:25 pm

      It’s delicious and such a surprise

    • Theresa
      August 20, 2014 at 3:54 pm

      oh good! I`m glad you like the way it turned out, Jacque!

  3. Anita Goddard
    July 24, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    Theresa, can you make it with red balsamic vinegar as well?

    • Theresa
      July 26, 2014 at 9:12 pm

      Yes, most definitely, Anita!

  4. Mary
    August 14, 2014 at 5:53 am

    Lord John Grey made Restoratives. Do you have any recipes for his concoctions?

    • Theresa
      August 14, 2014 at 8:03 am

      Not yet, but you never know!

  5. Karen
    August 15, 2014 at 5:25 am

    I started this yesterday with the regular red balsamic vinegar and 1 cup sugar and strawberries, of course. I put some basil leaves in there as you suggested. It tasted great on day 1 so I know this is going to be awesome. Thanks!

    • Theresa
      August 15, 2014 at 10:34 am

      Enjoy it, Karen!

  6. Cate Fitt
    September 12, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    This summer I had an abundance of blackberries so I made a shrub with some of them. I was a bit doubtful as I am not usually partial to vinegars. The results were surprisingly delicious and the pretty bottles I had intended as presents are almost all drunk up by me.
    I plan to save this recipe for next spring.

    • Angela
      May 19, 2015 at 9:07 am

      I am doing blackberry right now. It will be a week this Saturday. On Monday, it was a little two sharp. I have added ore sugar, we will see!

  7. Wendy Ross
    October 15, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    Hi Theresa.

    I made this shrub with apple cider vinegar and strawberries. I did not have any fresh basil at the time. It is sweet and sour. I just tried it mixed with some Seagrams 7 and very good. I also tried it with vodka and some lime juice and that’s pretty good too. I’m going to still play with it.

    Obviously with two cups of vinegar it tastes very vinegary. To qualify as a shrub, does it have to use equal parts of fruit and vinegar or could one use less vinegar and/or more strawberries?

    By the way, I made Cherry Bounce with vodka and that is amazing — so much so that we keep “testing” it and can’t wait the six months. I made a cocktail with it – 4 oz of cherry bounce, 2-4 oz of lime juice (I use Simply Limeade) and a splash of cranberry juice. Yyummm!!

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