Shrub syrups (aka “drinking vinegars”) are fun and tasty additions to cocktails, but they are also a secret ingredient to making a great Italian soda. Italian Sodas are essentially flavored syrups + carbonated water + fruit garnish. Add some cream to the mix and you have a French Soda!
Italian sodas also fall under the umbrella of “mocktails” although mocktails can get much more elaborate with different flavor additions. From a health standpoint, using shrub syrups as the flavoring to carbonated water can make it much easier to get in your requisite 8 glasses of water a day.
What are Shrub Syrups:
Basically a shrub syrup is a fruity-acidic concentrated syrup that can be used to flavor carbonated water, iced tea, lemonades, or as a cocktail or mocktail ingredient.
The term “shrub” is derived from the Arabic word sharāb meaning “to drink”. The American version has its origins in the 17th century, when vinegar was used to preserve berries and other fruits. The resulting sweet and sour syrup was mixed with water or soda and served as a refreshing drink, often after a long day in the field.
Although bartenders (mixologists) are embracing shrub syrups as an innovative alternative to citrus juices in craft cocktails. I personally love them simply with carbonated water from my Sodastream.
Shrub Syrups as a Healthy Alternative to Flavored Waters
Making your own carbonated sodas at home with a Sodastream is a trend that has gained ground in the States, even though it has been popular in Europe for some time.
If you prefer your drinks to be non-alcoholic, shrub syrups can easily enhance bottled sparkling water into an “Italian Soda” or a ”French Soda” (an Italian with added cream).
Using a shrub syrup in your Italian soda has the added health benefit of regulating intestinal irritations due to the apple cider vinegar in most shrub syrups.
The antioxidants from the berries in most shrub syrups are the icing on the cake.
How Much Syrup to Use in Italian Soda
My preference of syrup to water ratio is to mix 3 Tbsp. of a shrub syrup (or simple syrup) with 8 oz. of sparkling water. The great thing about making your own drink is you can regulate the sugar content by using more or less syrup.
And….shrub syrups have a long shelf life since the vinegar and sugar act as preservatives.
Homemade Shrub Syrups
A common ratio of ingredients in making the shrub syrup itself would be equal parts of fresh berry juice, apple cider vinegar and pure cane sugar.
Of course, variations in the type of fruit, vinegar or sugar are endless, but the “mother” recipe uses the ingredients listed above in equal parts.
Aromatics are often added, sometimes in place of the berries and sometimes as an enhancement to the berries.
The process of making shrubs also varies. Some shrub-makers prefer “cold processing”, where you let the berries steep in the sugar for days until their juices are released and then strain and add vinegar.
Others will infuse the vinegar with fruit, strain and then add sugar to taste.
Yet others prefer simmering the syrup on the stove top to pasteurize any bacteria that might be present on the fruit.
These details on homemade shrub syrups will help if you want to learn more about making your own shrub syrups.
Here is a favorite of mine:
Strawberry Lavender Italian Soda
- 3 Tbsp. Strawberry Lavender Simple Syrup
- 8 oz. carbonated water (or tonic water, ginger ale, or plain water)
Directions: Combine syrup and water in a tall glass filled with ice and stir thoroughly. Garnish with a straw and lime or lemon peel if desired.
There you have it. The flavor combinations are really endless and it is hard to go wrong. As an anecdotal aside (caveat – non medical opinion), I was diagnosed at one time with a nasty intestinal problem and told to go on Prilosec long-term.
Tried that and hated it, so I took a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar every day for a couple of weeks and it was gone. Voila…no more problems, and that was a long, long time ago. Shrub syrups are a much more delightful way to get your vinegar down!
Adding Alcohol to Italian Sodas:
If you purchase a ready-made shrub syrup you really don’t need to add anything else besides your alcohol of choice and sparkling (carbonated) water.
If you want to get a little fancier, top the cocktail with champagne or sparkling wine rather than sparkling water.