Our farm is small (23 acres), but it is amazing the amount of small fruit that you can grow on that small of an acreage. Since blueberries are our main crop, we have tried out a LOT of blueberry recipes for both food and drink. Using a blueberry shrub syrup in cocktails (and mocktails) is a delightful way to enjoy this healthy summer fruit. Recipes are shared below.Jump to Recipe
Berries & Fruit that can be used for Shrub Syrups
On our small farm, we started with blueberries in 1998, and have been adding various new fruits every year. Some have not worked out too well (kiwis, saskatoons, blackberries), but what we grow now through survival of the fittest includes currants, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, elderberries, chokecherries, gooseberries, sour cherries, rhubarb, chile peppers and heirloom tomatoes.
I love, love fruit and love working with fruit. There is so much versatility in what you can do with fruit — I sometimes feel as if I’m racing against time to try all of the ideas I run across or dream up. I wondered the other day if the term “creative Juices” originated from someone who was working with fruit?
Using Shrub Syrups for Cocktails and Italian Sodas
Drinking ”enough” water is one of those things that is really important on a low carb or high protein diet (also keto). It is also something that many people find difficult to swallow (so to speak). Plain water can be pretty boring after a while, and getting in the recommended 8 glasses can seem impossible.
One way to meet the water challenge is to add flavor to your water. Adding flavored syrups to “fizzy water” makes a drink known as an Italian Soda. Add a little cream to the Italian Soda and you have a French Soda.
An Italian Soda can be made with a can of sparkling water and a few tablespoons of a flavored syrup. A great alternative to buying sparkling water is to purchase a Soda Stream maker that makes carbonated water a liter at a time. This option saves a lot of money if you use it much, and it is ultimately more environmentally friendly that individual bottles or cans.
Flavored vinegar syrups added to carbonated water makes what is referred to as an old-fashioned “shrub”. A shrub syrup (aka drinking vinegar) is essentially a fruit syrup with vinegar added.
Sound weird? It was a very popular drink in the Colonial era when refrigeration wasn’t available and vinegar could act as a preservative. It also provided acidity to a drink when fresh citrus wasn’t available and offered the taste of summer in those bleak winters. The fruit, the sugar, and the marinating time mellow out the vinegar taste and it’s really quite wonderful.
Here is the “how-to” of making a blueberry shrub syrups, followed by some drink recipes of how to use it. If you would rather purchase your shrub syrups, here is a wide variety of flavored shrub syrups.
Hot Process Method for Making Blueberry Tarragon Shrub Syrup:
- Juice the blueberries by simmering in a large pot over med-low heat with 1/4 cup water until they are soft and the juices run (about 15 min.). You’ll get about 1 cup of juice for every 2 cups berries.
- Strain the juice through cheesecloth or a jelly bag. A piece of nylon tulle placed in a strainer works as well as cheesecloth and doesn’t take as long. If you want the juice to be perfectly clear (as you would for a jelly), don’t push the pulp through the strainer. I don’t think clarity matters with a syrup, so I would push as much juice through the strainer as possible to get the maximum juice from your berries. In our kitchen we use a large juicer from Sweden called a Mehu-liisa, but we have a commercial kitchen and process a lot of berries and fruit. It works like a charm however and I love it!
- Measure the juice and for every cup of juice measure equal amounts of cups of pure cane sugar. Many syrup companies use corn syrup as a thickener. You don’t need a thick syrup for beverages. If you want to make a thick pancake syrup, you can add a little pectin when you boil it up.
- Tie some sprigs of fresh tarragon (mint is also good) in a cheesecloth bag (around a cup of tarragon for every 4-6 cups of juice). Pour the juice into a large pot and add the bag of tarragon. Bring to a boil, then cover the pot, turn off the heat and let the tarragon infuse into the juice for about 20 minutes.
- Remove the tarragon, add the sugar to the pot and bring to a boil, slowly, making sure all of the sugar is dissolved. I usually add some fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice at this point, but it is optional.
- Ladle into jars or bottles using a funnel; let cool and then refrigerate. Stir in, to taste, to your favorite beverages
Cold Processed Shrub Syrup Method:
- Combine 1 part apple cider vinegar, and 1 part pure cane sugar to 2 parts berries (or any kind of fruit).
- Bring ingredients to a slow boil, to dissolve the sugar. Stir. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Strain into a glass bottle and let sit for a couple of weeks.
- This is the quick way to make a shrub syrup. When we make them for market we let the berries steep in the sugar in the refrigerator for 3 days, strain, add vinegar and cover. It’s a little more complex that way, but the quick way is fine.
Use of Commercial Pectin
Although some people eschew the use of commercial pectin, it is not an unhealthy additive. It is primarily made from dried citrus rind/pith or apples, and then standardized by testing the rind and adding enough sugar to the pectin so it works the same each application. Much worse to add something like corn syrup.
How Much Shrub Syrup to Use in a Drink
The question I always get at markets is how much to use, and well……that depends really on how sweet you like your drink, which berry syrup you’re using, and what kind of drink you’re flavoring. With an 8-oz glass of sparkling water I would probably add 2-3 Tablespoons of the Blueberry Tarragon Syrup.
By the way, these syrups are also great drizzled over fruit salads, pound cake, ice cream, or used with vinegar in a salad dressing. OK, here’s the cocktail recipes I promised:
Learn More about Shrub Syrups:
For a detailed primer on making shrub syrups: Mixology Basics
To purchase shrub syrups from Heathglen: Heathglen’s products
Blueberry Shrub Cocktails
- 1-1/2 oz. white rum
- 1 oz. Blueberry Shrub Syrup
- 1/8 oz. lime juice
- 1 oz. Ginger Ale
Blueberry Rhumba Cocktail
- 1 oz white rum
- 1/2 oz dark rum
- 1/4 oz Triple Sec
- 1/4 oz Blue Curacao
- 3/4 oz Blueberry shrub syrup
- 2 oz pineapple juice
- 2 oz lemonade
- 1 1/2 oz gin
- 3/4 oz blueberry shrub syrup
- 1 dash orange bitters
- FOR BLUEBERRY CABANA: Add rum, shrub syrup and lime juice to a short ice-filled glass. Top with ginger ale and stir. Add garnish.
- FOR BLUEBERRY RHUMBA COCKTAIL: In a cocktail shaker with ice, add all ingredients except for the lemonade. Strain over a tall glass of ice and add lemonade. Stir and garnish.
- FOR BLUEBERRY MARTINI: In a cocktail shaker of ice add all ingredients and shake up. Strain into a martini glass and garnish