Friday, March 8, 2013

Grapefruit Shrub Cocktails

While at my first visit to D.C's (rather fabulous) Union Market, I was lucky to get a demonstration at Salt & Sundry from Liber & Co., a small Texas-based producer of unusual cocktail ingredients, including tonic syrup and a couple varieties of shrub.

Until recently I didn't really know what shrub was, although I assumed it probably wasn't cuttings from a backyard bush (a potentially bad assumption in these days of cocktail experimentation). Shrub is an old-fashioned mixture of fruit juice, vinegar and sugar, generally as a way to preserve the fruit juice, that may or may not also contain liquor. According to Wikipedia, shrub emerged in colonial times but fell out of favor with the advent of refrigeration.

With the current interest in reviving classic cocktails, it's no surprise that shrub is becoming more common on cocktail menus (Some of the cocktails at Range, for example, include different shrubs). Liber & Co. were offering samples of their grapefruit shrub mixed with club soda, which was tart, sweet and refreshing. I used it to make the Dallas Drinks: The Judith cocktail from earlier this week, and also tried the two suggested cocktails on the Liber & Co. website.

From Liber & Co.

3/4 oz. grapefruit shrub
1 1/2 oz. gin
3/4 oz dry vermouth (I used Lillet Blanc, which is similar to dry vermouth but a little sweet)
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
Lemon twist

Combine shrub, gin, vermouth and bitters in a cocktail glass with ice. Stir until combined and chilled and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

Fireside Fling
From Liber & Co.

This drinks calls for a flamed grapefruit peel, which is a rather exciting cocktail garnish. To make one, cut a wide slice of grapefruit peel (a coin shape works well), carefully hold the peel above the cocktail with the skin side facing the glass. With your other hand, strike a match and hold it under the peel. Quickly squeeze the peel to release its oils which will light on fire as they spray through the match flame and into the glass. Because this trick is probably best demonstrated, here's a good video.

1 oz. scotch whisky (I used a blended scotch)
3/4 oz. grapefruit shrub
1/2 oz. cherry heering
3/4 oz. Italian vermouth (i.e. sweet vermouth)
Flamed grapefruit peel

Combine scotch, shrub, cheery heering and vermouth in a shaker with ice. Shake until cold and strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with flamed grapefruit peel.


  1. Shrub -- what a nice discovery!

    Speaking of Texans: "Shrub" was also a nickname for George W. Bush (coined by the late columnist Molly Ivins). Probably there's a joke in there somewhere.

  2. Funny. I guess if you were going to make a George W. Bush cocktail, you'd want to include this. The Willard Hotel bar has cocktails for each of the presidents, but the "W" is just diet cola and lemon.