Experiencing the Joys of Shrub

In which the author shares his recipe for black cherry balsamic shrub and a couple of cocktails which use it.

[NOTE: I’ve been erroneously adding a second ‘b’ to ‘shrub’ during these past posts. I think that crept in because I started out using the made-up gerund “shrubbing” (“shrubbin'”) in the title of the first post. It sounded right – doubling the consonant before adding the ‘ing’ – but then it appears to have stuck, maybe because it sounded more rustic and old-tyme-like. At any rate, the extra ‘b’ has been expunged. The results are just as delicious.]

The two shrubs (raspberry/blackberry and black cherry) which I wrote about on the 16th of May are now bottled. A number of very yummy cocktails have been created, made and savored. Shrub turns out to be a very intense ingredient which concentrates the flavor of the underlying fruit with sweet and acid notes. It obviates the need to add any citrus to a cocktail and adds no additional alcohol (a good or a bad thing depending on your taste). It seems most natural to make sweet/sour type drinks with this though one could experiment with dialing the amount of shrub back to see what happens (e.g. a gin-based drink using no more than 1/4 oz. of shrub).

Below is my recipe for the black cherry balsamic shrub, which I feel is the more complex and unusual of the two I made, followed by a couple of original cocktail recipes which use it.

I also should mention that I did make Jamie Boudreau’s “Clarke’s Conundum” using my berry shrub. It was in fact the first thing I tried. It was delicious and I’d make it again. Of course I am also thinking of ways I’d tinker with it. Perhaps using an Oloroso in place of the PX to make it less sweet and a bit more nutty? Hmmm.

Bottled Raspberry/Blackberry and Black Cherry Balsamic Shrub

Black Cherry Balsamic Shrub


500 grams fresh black cherries
500 grams organic sugar [1]
250 grams organic balsamic vinegar [2]
250 grams organic apple cider vinegar
2 large quills ceylonese cinnamon
8 – 12 black peppercorns, cracked by hand [3]

[1] – I was out of white sugar when I made my shrub so used turbinado (AKA demerara) sugar instead. You may use either though I think the less-refined sugar will result a deeper more complex flavor.

[3] – I recommend buying a better grade of balsamic – i.e. not the cheapest you can find – but certainly not the most expensive.

[3] – You don’t want to use coarse ground pepper for this, which will give too much surface area and possibly become too dominant a flavor. I started with whole peppercorns which I then gently cracked in a small mortar and pestle.


A scale for measuring ingredients in grams.
A 1-liter wide-mouthed glass jar with a well-fitting resealable lid.
A muddler or similar implement for smashing and pressing fruit.
A fine-mesh sieve or even a chinois.
A large mixing bowl made of glass or stainless-steel (i.e. non-reactive).
A medium funnel.
Bottles for storing finished product.


1- Wash and remove the stems from the cherries.

2- Put the cherries into the wide mouthed glass jar (“jar”).

3- Put the sugar into the jar.

4- Use muddler to crush up the cherries, releasing juice, mixing things up with the sugar. Be sure that every cherry has been broken open.

5- Stir the cherry-sugar mixture together until all of the sugar has been moistened by the cherry juice.

6- Seal the jar and let sit in a cool place to macerate for at least 24 and up to 48 hours. I recommend you visually monitor the mixture during this time for signs of fermentation. If it looks like it’s starting to ferment you may add up to 125 grams (one half) of the cider vinegar to arrest this process.

NOTE: some slight froth is normal and does not indicate fermentation. That would be indicated by observing the formation and rise of small bubbles and the build up of CO2 gas in the jar. Also a little fermentation isn’t a bad thing but you don’t want it to get out of control as you are not making wine.

7- After maceration is complete, add the cider vinegar (or what remains of it), the balsamic vinegar, the cinnamon quills and the cracked black peppercorns to the jar, seal and shake well. Store in a cool place for at least 7 and as long as 10 days.

NOTE: over the next day or so you should aim to get all the remaining sugar crystals dissolved by shaking a few times a day. This also helps you to form a bond with your new shrub.

8- When you are ready, strain the contents of the jar into a sufficiently large non-reactive bowl. Use your muddler or the back of a large spoon to press as much liquid as possible from what remains of he cherries. Get as much a possible out before you give up on ’em.

Pressing Cherry Goodness

9- Set up your funnel with a couple of layers of cheesecloth and pour (or ladle) the shrubb into your bottle (or bottles) for storage.

NOTE: the cheesecloth will still let a lot of very fine fruit particles pass. I think there’s a lot of flavor in them particles so this doesn’t bother me. As the shrub stands, these particles will settle out so I give my shrub a good shake before using it for a cocktail. I suppose it could be decanted – and maybe I’ll try that at some point to see how it affects the flavor. I’ll let you know.

10- You are done. Clean up and get ready to make some cocktails.

Shrub Cocktails:

Arbusto Oaxaca

1 1/2 oz. Del Maguey Minero mezcal
3/4 oz. black cherry balsamic shrub
1/4 – 1/2 oz. Tia Maria
1 dash orange bitters (*)

Stir ingredients over ice. Fine strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a long lemon twist.

I was thinking about this one the whole time I was waiting for the shrub to be ready. It seems like a natural fit between the smokiness of the mezcal, the tartness of the vinegar and the sweetness of the cherries, complemented by a little chocolate from the Tia Maria.

Arbusto Oaxaca

(*) – I actually tried my nascent chocolate orange bitters. If you are lucky enough to have access to Bittermen’s Xocolatl Mole Bitters bitters (soon to be available to the rest of us) you could give those a whirl.

Black Shrubhattan

2 oz. bourbon (I used Grand Dad Bottled in Bond)
1/2 oz. black cherry balsamic shrub
1/2 oz. Amaro Nonino
1 dash Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel Aged bitters

Stir ingredients over ice. Fine strain into a chilled cocktail glass. No garnish required.


21 Responses to “Experiencing the Joys of Shrub”

  1. some shrubs have 2 b’s. Clement Creole Shrubb is a rum-based orange liqueur – and has 2 b’s.

    but you are correct about the vinegar/fruit syrup only having one b.

    i once made a Balsamic, Blackberry, Basil shrub… it had 3 b’s ;-)

  2. Yes – the Creole Shrubb has the extra ‘b’ – but it’s a very different beastie.

    Thank for stopping by!


  3. […] Stirred, Not Shaken Blogging on cocktails and the making of a new cocktail book « Experiencing the Joys of Shrub […]

  4. Looks intersting! i will try it.


  5. […] the final product. Some shrubbers have used balsamic to great success. Here’s an example of a Black Cherry Balsamic Shrub that sounds fabulous, especially with the addition of peppercorn and […]

  6. […] the final product. Some shrubbers have used balsamic to great success. Here’s an example of a Black Cherry Balsamic Shrub that sounds fabulous, especially with the addition of peppercorn and […]

  7. […] also got cherries and sugar macerating in an attempt to make this cherry shrub recipe happen. You may recall we enjoyed cherry shrub cocktails for our anniversary recently. Learn more […]

  8. This came out beautifully. I made it for Christmas gifts, so being that we are in the midst of winter in Georgia, I was unable to use fresh cherries. I used frozen cherries instead and was pleased with the results. Starting another few batches today of strawberry-coriander and raspberry-orange-fennel. Thanks for posting this!

  9. JayNewell Says:

    Could you Sous Vide the shrub to quicken up the process ? ?

  10. Great post. Love it and will reproduce it!
    Sous vide though is the wrong method here. You can vacuum infuse it or rapid-infuse [NO2] it – however you still have to get the juice going. Guess, that takes at least half dozen hours…

    If you would like to get rid of the “depot” [particles in the liquid], you could just agar-agar clarify it [check out cookingissues.com of Dave Arnold]. This clarify the liquid perfectly and it will even look better…

  11. There are recipes that use heat directly so I don’t think there’s any need for sous vide if you are interested in speeding the process. I personally prefer to not cook the fruit.

  12. […] just delicious drinks on their own or the bases for delicious boozy drinks.  This recipe for Black Cherry Balsamic Shrub from Stirred, Not Shaken is described as complex and unusual — it uses cherries, two different kinds of vinegar and a […]

  13. […] Shrub  This cold-process shrub is based on recipes by Michael Dietsch in Stirred, Not Shaken and Ellen Jackson in Culinate.com. (Jackson’s article also has good recommendations for […]

  14. I had more shrub than would fit into the jar I was using, so I put the leftover fruit in a different job, added enough shrub back to barely cover, and kept in the back of my fridge for an extra month or so. When I found it again, I re-strained into a new, smaller jar and found a much sweeter shrub concentrate that was fantastic in a bourbon rye cocktail.

    I’ve also used this a a base recipe to make a blackberry lemon verbena shrub (total winner), and a blueberry herbes-de-province (much more sour, but very interesting) shrub.

    Thanks for this great recipe!

  15. […] made a basic shrub, experiment with different fruits, vinegars and additives. For example, this black cherry balsamic shrub adds peppercorn and cinnamon. For a more guy-friendly drink, try this Charentes shrub cocktail, […]

  16. Hi there! I know this is kinda off topic however , I’d figured
    I’d ask. Would you be interested in exchanging links or maybe guest writing a
    blog article or vice-versa? My website discusses a lot of
    the same topics as yours and I think we could greatly benefit from each
    other. If you’re interested feel free to shoot me an
    e-mail. I look forward to hearing from you! Terrific
    blog by the way!

  17. Alex Varney Says:

    Looking forward to trying this next week. Got some (heres hoping) awesome cocktail ideas this will work with. If anyone has attempted this can you let me know if frozen cherries work as well as fresh do?

  18. eli sanchez Says:

    I like using champagne vinegar as well really lets the fruit shine.

  19. Betty wolff Says:

    Would you use a fruit shrub in lemmonaaid?

  20. Evelyn Barney Says:

    Adding fruit shrub to lemonade sounds great. This is all a matter of taste. Imagine a pink lemonade that actually had a slightly different flavor, not just look.

  21. […] even all white sugar), a blend of apple cider and balsamic vinegar, plus some spices. Adapted from: Stirred Not […]

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