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How To Make Craft Cocktails From The Garden using A Shrub as a Mixer

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

When is a shrub not a plant? When it’s in your hand as the ingredient in a thirst-quenching  beverage.

In this context, think of a shrub as a pre-made drink mixer to which you can add tonic water, ginger beer or soda water for a non-alcoholic version, or gin, vodka, bourbon or prosecco for an alcoholic beverage. Today’s craft cocktails have taken the concept, which has its origins in colonial times, to a new level of popularity.

Many shrubs get their distinction from herbs that are easily grown in a “cocktail garden,” including rosemary, sage, basil, thyme and mint. Some popular combinations are blackberries and sage; vanilla, pepper and thyme; cherry and mint; and pear and thyme. Rosemary pairs well with lemon, cranberry or ginger.

To make a shrub, select a fruit and an herb, and muddle them together with some sugar and a high-quality vinegar. A white balsamic or Champagne vinegar are good choices. Apple cider vinegar will take a shrub in a more musky direction.

Recipes vary, but generally the mixture is left to sit at least six hours, preferably overnight or longer until all the fruit and herb juices are extracted. Strain the solids from the mixture and store the liquid – the shrub – for up to a month in the refrigerator.

Following is how to make a lemon-rosemary shrub from


  • 2 lemons (preferably organic), zest only
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • fresh rosemary – a 3-inch sprig or more
  • 1/2 cup Prosecco or champagne vinegar
  • club soda, seltzer or sparkling water
  • dry gin such as Tanqueray (optional)

Zest the lemons making thick strands of peel. Add to the sugar and mix with your hands or a fork until the peel is well-coated with sugar. Place the mixture in a closed container, shake it periodically to further mix the sugar and peel, and refrigerate the mixture overnight.

Add 3/4 cup water. Put the mixture in a saucepan on a low light. Heat it just until the sugar dissolves. Then take the mixture off the heat and remove the lemon zest without taking any of the sugar mixture with it. (If necessary, scrape the rind with a butter knife as you remove it.) Add a 3-4-inch stem of fresh rosemary and refrigerate the mixture in a closed container for a second day. If the rosemary has not yet added aroma to the mixture, add more rosemary and refrigerate for another day.

On the second or third day, add the vinegar and refrigerate for another 2 days.

Serve the shrub with or without ice cubes. Add a splash of club soda, seltzer, sparkling water or similar carbonation. To turn the shrub into a cocktail, add 1 ounce of gin, or more if desired. The cocktail version can be made with or without the splash of carbonation. If making a cocktail, the gin is typically added before the carbonation.



2 thoughts on “How To Make Craft Cocktails From The Garden using A Shrub as a Mixer

  1. How much sugar? No sugar listed in the ingredients. I tried to go to the source listed but link is not working.

  2. Sandi Hague says:

    Sounds delicious. How much sugar do you recommend? Thanks!

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