A Cocktail with Colonial Roots

by Sara Lindquist
Monday, Mar 27, 2017

Does your fridge have fruit that's starting to lose it's luster? Give it new life by making it into an old-school cocktail base. (Photo: Alex I.)

Shrubs may be the latest trend in the cocktail world — you'll find them in the arsenal of top notch bars like the ones at Toro and Backbar — but these humble drinking vinegars have been in existence for hundreds of years. Invented as a way to utilize over-ripe produce and preserve seasonal fruits, they are a New England tradition worth bringing back into fashion.

With a simple, versatile ingredient list of sugar, vinegar, fruit, and maybe some fresh herbs, the flavors of a shrub meld to create a refreshingly sweet-tart sum of its parts. Mix with club soda for a thirst quenching sipper, or spike with your favorite spirit for a soothing cocktail at the end of a long day.

Rhubarb-Orange-Mint Shrub


4 cups rhubarb, thinly sliced

1 medium orange, peeled and sliced

1 cup sugar

1 cup vinegar

2 fresh mint sprigs


  1. Combine the rhubarb, orange slices and sugar in a large glass bowl.
  2. Mix and mash with a wooden spoon until the ingredients are well combined.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for 2 days, mixing after the first day to continue incorporating the sugar into the fruit syrup.
  4. Strain the syrup into a clean 16-20 oz. jar. 
  5. Add the vinegar and spearmint, removing spearmint after 3 hours.
  6. Shrub will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks. (If it lasts that long!)


Strawberry-Rhubarb Smash

Strawberry-Rhubarb Smash (Photo: Tory Wik)

Your shrub requires a few days of hands-off time. While you are waiting, mix up a batch of strawberry-infused gin. Just add 1 pint of fresh, clean strawberries (with their tops cut off) to a 750 ml bottle of gin and wait about one week. Strain, and you’ve got strawberry-infused gin!


1 1/2 ounces gin or strawberry infused gin

1 ounce rhubarb-orange-mint shrub

1 ounce cointreau (substitute triple sec if Cointreau breaks your bank)

2 dashes of bitters

3 medium strawberries (plus 1 for garnish)

6 spearmint leaves (plus a sprig for garnish)


  1. In a cocktail shaker, add the strawberries, spearmint leaves and shrub. Muddle gently by pressing and turning the muddler into the fruit and mint. You are looking to release the juices and oils by doing this. If you do not have a muddler, you can use a wooden spoon for the same effect.
  2. Add the Cointreau, gin, and bitters and fill with ice. Shake vigorously. Strain the cocktail over a rocks glass filled with crushed ice, or into a chilled coupe glass.
  3. Garnish with a strawberry and a mint sprig.

About the Author

Craving Boston's Sara is a Boston-based cocktail enthusiast and bon vivant. Outside of her job in real estate, she enjoys mixing drinks and entertaining for friends in her tiny Beacon Hill apartment, and eating and imbibing at restaurants and bars – and Instagramming her favorites – throughout the greater Boston region.


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