RECIPE: Celebrate the season with a holiday ... shrub?

The word “shrub” threw me for a loop. It appeared in the menu description of a fancy cocktail at an even fancier restaurant. An under-the-tablecloth internet search explained that a cocktail shrub is not a small garden bush, but rather a tangy fruit syrup. I was curious. A few weeks and many Mason jars of macerated fruit later, I’m obsessed.

For a unique holiday mixer, jump to my pomegranate shrub recipe. Its ruby, sweet-tart goodness transforms prosecco into a signature cocktail. And since the shrub itself is nonalcoholic, you can also add it to carbonated water for a festive mocktail.

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A shrub is composed of fresh fruit, sugar and vinegar, brought together in a loose 1:1:1 ratio. That’s it – that’s the whole recipe. But within those parameters exists a universe of possibilities. If separating the pomegranate arils (the juicy red bits) from the white kernels seems like too much work, use strawberries, pears or even cranberries. Cover the fruit in plain white sugar to draw out the juices and make the syrup. I wondered if I could skip the maceration process and substitute pomegranate juice instead, but the final result tasted flat. For the freshest flavor, use fresh fruit.

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Don’t let the third ingredient, vinegar, give you pause. We’re not using the white vinegar that doubles as a cleaning product. Light, refined vinegars, like champagne, balsamic or apple cider cut the sweetness and give the shrub its symphony of flavors. In this recipe, the pomegranate pairs best with Chianti red wine vinegar, which is available in most supermarkets. If you don’t have it on hand, plain red wine vinegar works, too. Whether you enjoy concocting shrubs for a special evening or they become your new winter project, the fascinating flavors will brighten your holiday and your new year.

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Pomegranate Shrub
  • 1 1/4 cups pomegranate seeds
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup Chianti red wine vinegar (can substitute with red wine vinegar)
  • Add the seeds and sugar to a sterile quart-sized canning jar. Cover tightly with a lid. Shake vigorously and refrigerate overnight or up to 3 days, shaking the jar occasionally until the sugar is incorporated.
  • Place a fine-mesh strainer over a mixing bowl and strain the macerated seeds. Use the back of a metal spoon to scrape the seeds against the strainer, pushing the red arils through. Discard the remaining white kernels. You will have approximately 1 cup of syrup in the bowl.
  • Return the syrup to the jar and add the vinegar. Cover with plastic wrap to protect the metal lid from the vinegar, then cover tightly with the lid. Shake well. Store in the refrigerator, shaking the jar as needed if sugar crystals appear at the bottom. The shrub will keep, refrigerated, up to 2 weeks. Makes 16 ounces.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per ounce: 63 calories (percent of calories from fat, 2), trace protein, 15 grams carbohydrates, trace fiber, trace total fat (no saturated fat), no cholesterol, 2 milligrams sodium.

Pomegranate Shrub Sparkler
  • 4 ounces prosecco
  • 1 ounce Pomegranate Shrub
  • 1 ounce club soda
  • Pomegranate seeds for garnish (optional)
  • Combine all ingredients in a Champagne flute and stir gently. Serve immediately.
  • To make a mocktail, omit prosecco and add 5 ounces club soda. Makes 1.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 169 calories (percent of calories from fat, 0), trace protein, 24 grams carbohydrates, no fiber, no fat (no saturated fat), no cholesterol, 28 milligrams sodium.
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