Spiced Cranberry Shrub is a tart cranberry syrup with the warming spices of a winter punch. For those unfamiliar, a shrub is a lightly fermented fruit syrup main from roughly equal amounts of fruits and vegetables, vinegar, and sugar. They may be mixed with soda for a complex and mostly non-alcoholic alternative to bottled pop, or can be used as a mixer in more adult beverages. The basic formula is crazy simple and the variants are endless.
The recipe for Spiced Cranberry Shrub came to me out of necessity. I have a habit of buying up an endless supply of fresh cranberries in the runup to Thanksgiving and then never getting around to making cranberry sauce. They eventually end up in my freezer taking up space. Spiced Cranberry Shrub uses them up quickly. Shrubs require a little bit of patience but the end result is potent and breathtaking. Cranberries are powerfully tart and cloves are intense, even in small quantities. I’ve leaned into the tartness and recommend you do the same, but recognize that everyone’s taste buds are a little bit different. If you want to add a little bit more sugar I won’t tell anyone.
Wherever possible I’d recommend using an apple cider vinegar that includes the “mother”. This no longer requires spending an arm and a leg, as most grocery stores now offer a generic variety. The mother will aid in fermentation and add some complexity and a little bit of effervescence. These vinegars also tend to be of better quality. The fermentation effect is subtle and not at all necessary, but certainly worth considering.
Spiced Cranberry Shrub can be mixed with soda water, one part shrub to four parts soda water, for a refreshing soda. It also mixes well with orange juice, orange bitters, or – weirdly – tomato juice. Enjoy!
- 12 oz fresh cranberries
- 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 1 1/4 cups sugar (superfine sugar will dissolve more quickly)
- 4 whole cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick (yes, food snobs, cassia bark will work just fine)
- Pour fresh cranberries into a mason jar. Add spices, cider vinegar, and sugar and shake well until sugar is dissolved. Since cranberries float, add additional vinegar if needed to top off the jar. Seal the jar tightly and store in a cool, dark place for 1-2 days.
- After steeping for a day or two, put the mixture in a blender and pulse a couple of times to break up the cranberries. They don't need to be pulverized, but you want to break their skin. Return them to the mason jar, seal, and store in a cool, dark place for 1-2 days.
- Filter the mixture through a fine mesh sieve, using a coffee filter if desired. Smash the pulp against the sieve to extract all the juices, and allow the mixture to sit for 30-40 minutes to extract all possible liquid. Store in a glass container and refrigerate for up to a month.
- Mix 2 oz shrub with 8 oz soda or tonic water and serve over ice for a potent, tart drink.
Mix 2 oz shrub with 8 oz soda or tonic water and serve over ice.
See also my recipe for Spiced California Cup Mocktail