Shrubs (from the Arabic word shurb, or “beverage”) and switchels have been around since colonial times in this country, but really took off in the 18th and 19th centuries as a popular temperance beverage spiked with vinegar rather than alcohol. Fruit syrups and natron (a cousin of baking soda) were sometimes added to create a fizzy summer quencher. Much earlier, the Latin historian Spartinius attributed the conquering vigor of the Roman Empire’s armies to a vinegar-based refreshment, which was lighter than wine to pack on the roads to Rome.
And I know, it might not sound particularly tasty to splash vinegar into your fresh fruit juice, but you’ll have to try it to believe it. Like salt in a sweet cookie or cake recipe, vinegar heightens the other flavors around it, and beverages with bracing notes of tartness (think lemonade, or a cranberry juice and vodka) often taste cleaner, more refreshing than purely sweet ones. This sparkling shrub, with a sweet base of fresh raspberries and apricot nectar, is fruity and bright, with a sophisticated, can’t-quite-place-it complexity thanks to the vinegar. You may not even miss the hooch.
adapted (barely) from Homemade Soda by Andrew Schloss, 2011; makes about 4 short drinks
- 1 C fresh raspberries, about 6 oz
- 1 C apricot nectar
- 1/4 C agave syrup
- 1/4 C raspberry or white wine vinegar
- seltzer or club soda
In a small bowl, mash the raspberries well with the back of a fork. Mix in the nectar a little bit at a time to combine. Pour through a strainer over another small bowl, folding the pulp without mashing any solids through the sieve. You’ll have a bit of pulp and seeds left over; discard. Add the agave syrup and vinegar.
Over ice, add equal parts of the raspberry-apricot mixture and seltzer. Garnish with raspberries, if desired, and serve.
Note: this recipe multiplies very easily for a brunch, BBQ or baby shower crowd. Make the base ahead of time and add the seltzer just before serving.