Cranberry Shrub and Cranberry Shrub Cocktail

Cranberry Shrub Cocktail I’ve been laid up this week with a messed up knee, and let me tell you, it hasn’t been easy. The moment the accident happened, I felt my entire leg buckle, and for the next 72 hours I could barely move. Stairs were impossible and even putting on socks was a Herculean task. Sleep also eluded me because there was no position that I could hold my leg in that wasn’t excruciatingly uncomfortable. All I can say is, thank goodness for French pain-killers.

Cranberry Shrub Cocktail

The first night of the incident, it was Romain’s birthday and although I was laid up on the floor with my leg elevated on a chair, I still wanted to take him out for dinner. I didn’t last long at the restaurant, but managed to down a glass of sparkling rosé in his honor, because soon after I felt woozy and just barely made it through the evening without being that person that you hope you’re not seated next to at a restaurant.

I’m on the mend now, but before I ended up in my haze of pain, I’d made a batch of cranberry shrub because I had some cranberries on hand. You can get canneberges in Paris around the holidays, which they stock for les américains. Although every vendor doesn’t quite get the memo that after Thanksgiving, we’re no longer in a panic and willing to pay whatever price they stick on them, a few realize that after the holidays are over, our interest in them is vastly reduced. Occasionally you can pick some up at bargain prices, and thrifty ones (like me) will pick up any that he finds, and freeze them until the following year.

Cranberry Shrub Cocktail

I don’t quite know their origins, although shrubs seem to be Arabic, coming from the word sharab, or syrup, which the British may have adopted at some point. (This article about shrubs says they are Roman in origin.) Wherever they are from, shrubs are also called “drinking vinegars” and curiously, I’ve had some at Pok Pok Thai restaurant mixed in cocktails, but they can also be mixed with sparkling water to make a non-alcoholic drink.

A lot of shrubs are made by macerating the fruit or berries in vinegar for a number of days. Because cranberries have tough skins, they don’t yield their juices (and flavor) like softer berries unless the skins are crushed or cooked. So I put them in a saucepan and let them do their thing, reserving a few nice ones for a garnish later.

Cranberry Shrub Cocktail

The upside to this speedier method is that if it’s the holidays (or you’ve just stopped taking your pain-killers) and you really need a cocktail, you can have one in your hands about an hour after you begin to make the shrub. How’s that for efficiency, even with one leg still out of commission?

Cranberry Shrub Cocktail

I couldn’t race around very easily these past few days, but after not being able to hold my own after just one glass of Champagne, I wanted to celebrate getting (almost) back on my feet, figuratively and literally, with a cocktail. Gin is always nice for fruit-forward libations but bourbon seemed more in the holiday spirit. I added a dash of maple syrup and a few drops of pumpkin spice bitters that I got on a recent trip to San Francisco.

Rob Easter of Workhorse Rye

I’d been back-and-forthing with Rob Easter of Workhorse Rye in San Francisco over the course of the past year, for a number of reasons. One is that I had posted a picture of some rye whiskey on my Instagram feed a while back and we decided to try to meet up the next time I was in San Francisco. (The other reason that I wanted to meet is that he works with my friends at Dandelion Chocolate making salted cacao bitters.) Unfortunately my time is always so packed when I’m in San Francisco that it never seemed to happen.

But last month was a charm as Rob led a “Taking Back the Pumpkin Spice Latte” event at Four Barrel coffee, a valiant effort to one-up the omnipresent pumpkin-spiced coffee drinks (and other stuff) that seem to proliferate every October.

Pumpkin Bitters

I reserved a bottle of rye whiskey for the future, since they were out-of-stock, but he gifted me a few bottles of his bitters, including this pumpkin one, which is made from five kinds of roasted heirloom pumpkins as well as an intriguing blend of artichoke leaves, rooibos, sea salt, rye, cranberries, and spices.

Cranberry Shrub

A few drops were perfect in the cocktails, which I was able to enjoy a few days later when I said adieu to the pain-killers. I still, however, am holding onto my cane. That thing is like a cow-catcher on the sidewalks of Paris and I don’t know anything better for clearing a path through oncoming walkers, intent on playing sidewalk “chicken” with me. (I have learned that holding a baguette, straight out at groin level, works to clear a path, too.)

Cranberry Shrub Cocktail

For those who don’t drink alcohol, shrubs are the perfect libation for making sure people feel included at a holiday fête, and aren’t just handed a glass of mineral water as an afterthought. But the one I had, just above, I used to toast being back “in the pink”, an expression we used to say when someone was back in good health. However in this case, maybe I was toasting myself being back in the red?

Cranberry Shrub Cocktail

Cranberry Shrub
Print Recipe
Makes about 3 cups (0.75L)
Because shrub is vinegar-based, yup – that’s right, it has the flavor of vinegar in it. I like that biting tang, but it may or may not be to everyone’s taste. However it makes a nice base for a cocktail, or for a non-alcoholic alternative drink to pass around during the holidays. If you can get a good apple cider vinegar, perhaps from a local apple farm, use that. It’s more fruit-forward than the store-bought stuff. If you have another natural fruit vinegar, you could use that. If you don’t have either, white wine vinegar works instead.If you don’t have allspice berries, you can use a cinnamon stick, a few cloves, or another favorite spice. The cooked cranberries can be reserved and used to mix with apples or pears if you’re making a fruit crisp, or used as a replacement for some of the raisins (by weight or volume) in mincemeat or instant mincemeat. You could also be creative and turn it into cranberry sauce.
1 cup (250ml) water
2 1/4 cups (235g) fresh or frozen cranberries
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
8 allspice berries, crushed, or another spice
1 cup (250ml) apple cider vinegar
1. In a medium saucepan, heat the water, cranberries, sugar and allspice until the mixture starts to boil. Reduce the heat and cook at a very gentle simmer until the cranberries are completely soft, about 8 minutes.
2. Remove from heat and pass the cranberries through a mesh strainer, letting the liquid drain into a bowl. Press down on the cranberries to extract as much juice as possible from them without pressing too hard, as you don’t want to get any solids into the shrub. (You may want to reserve a few nice cranberries if you’d like to use them as a garnish before pressing them down.)
3. Add the vinegar to the cranberry syrup and transfer the shrub into a bottle or jar, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use. The shrub mixture can be kept for several months in the refrigerator.
To make a Cranberry Shrub Cocktail, fill a cocktail shaker halfway full of ice. Add 3/4 ounces of shrub and 2 ounces of bourbon, along with 1 teaspoon maple syrup and three drops of a favorite cocktail bitters. Shake until well-chilled, then pour in a cold glass. Garnish with leftover cranberries skewed on a toothpick or a strip of orange zest. An option to jazz it up would be to add 1/2 ounce of orange-based liqueur, such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau, to the cocktail mix in the shaker.

To make a non-alcoholic cranberry shrub beverage, add 2 tablespoons of cranberry shrub to a tumbler. Fill three-quarters full with crushed ice, a slice of orange, and fill with sparkling water. To take it in another direction, you can add some Lillet to it.

Related Recipes

Raspberry Shrub (My Baking Addiction)

Blackberry Shrub (Port and Fin)

Cherry, Vanilla, Maple Shrub (Bojon Gourmet)

Blueberry-Ginger Shrub (Food in Jars)

Apricot-Ginger Shrub (Washington Post)

Concord Grape Shrub (The Year in Food)

Apple Shrub (Food 52)

Tomato, Lovage and Lemon Balm Shrub (The Botanist)

Cucumber Shrub (Washington Post)

Cranberry Shrub Cocktail

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81 comments

  • Kit
    November 12, 2015 4:01pm

    Sorry to learn of your injury, David! I hope you’re fully recovered in time for holiday cooking, or are content to let someone do it for you. :) This recipe is very interesting with the use of vinegar, as I don’t enjoy an overly sweet cocktail or soda. Such a pretty color, too.

  • November 12, 2015 5:22pm

    Hope you feel better soon!

    I’ve never been a huge fan of cranberries, but in cocktail form they suddenly become much more interesting :) Thanks for the recipe!

  • Sasha
    November 12, 2015 5:42pm

    Dear David, get better! I hope the worst part is over)))

  • November 12, 2015 5:57pm

    I’m sorry to hear about your knee. I have a bad knee from years of running that should be replaced but such barbarism is not on my list of things to do so I just suffer. I love that this recipe can be made without alcohol. I will give it a try at Thanksgiving.

  • Katherine
    November 12, 2015 6:04pm

    Sorry about your knee and hope you are healing well. As I was reading this post, I thought hmm sounds like the drinking vinegars I’ve bought at my local mkt. I’m not connected with these folks, I just enjoy their products. You might enjoy reading about them. http://www.mcclarybros.com

  • Rick
    November 12, 2015 6:24pm

    David –

    So sorry to hear about your accident, heres hoping for a speedy recovery from all of us in Oregon.

    Plus a huge shout out to Romain who, I’m sure, is taking wonderful care of you!

    BTW – Loved seeing you on I’ll Have What Phil’s Having.

  • Murray
    November 12, 2015 8:01pm

    Hi David, hope you get and feel better soon.

    In the recipe, do you simmer the all-spice berries with the cranberries, sugar and water? Or add them when you add the vinegar to the cranberry syrup?

    Thanks!

  • Pam
    November 12, 2015 8:37pm

    I so hope your knee feels better soon! Do they have the same emphasis on physical therapy there? I hated doing it but it helped.
    There’s no shortage of cranberries here on Cape Cod so I’ll be trying this soon. Is this the kind of thing you could add to a mulled wine or similar warm punch?
    Oh, and a belated Happy Birthday to Romain! I’m so glad you both enjoyed your stay here.

  • Sarah
    November 12, 2015 9:30pm

    Ugh–so sorry about your knee; I’m glad you are on the mend!

    I’m a huge fan of shrubs. Thanks for this recipe! Would balsamic vinegar compete too much in flavor with the cranberries?

  • November 12, 2015 9:49pm

    Thank you for the fun recipe David, …..and may that knee be back to it’s painless, healthy state soon!

  • November 12, 2015 10:47pm
    David Lebovitz

    Sarah: I think balsamic vinegar is too strong and the color might make the red not so attractive. Although you could add a little see if you like it. But I wouldn’t swap out all of it for the cider vinegar.

    Murry: I simmer the spices with the cranberries. I added that in (must be the pain-killers…) – thanks!

    Rick: Glad you liked the program. It was fun to shoot and we had a lot of pastries that day…all in the name of work, of course…

    • Sarah
      November 16, 2015 1:05am

      Ah yes–good points! Thank you for responding! I really value your knowledge and the time you put into educating people on all of your various channels. Glad you are safe and hope the same is true for your friends and family.

  • Rachel B.
    November 12, 2015 11:23pm

    Thanks for the novel cranberry recipe! I always pop a couple of extra bags in my freezer, since they’re such a seasonal item . . . but now I think I’m up to eight or so bags. You can only make so much cranberry sauce.

  • june2
    November 12, 2015 11:39pm

    You’re so funny, that baguette comment, haha.

    The pumpkin bitters sounds like alchemic magic, wow. Artichoke leaves and 5 kinds of pumpkin? It’s gotta be good.

  • Gavrielle
    November 13, 2015 12:21am

    Aw, that majorly sucks! Glad you’re on the mend.

  • june2
    November 13, 2015 12:22am

    Just came across the latest episode on The Splendid Table on using bitters in food!

    http://www.splendidtable.org/story/use-bitters-to-add-flavor-complexity-to-food-not-just-cocktails

  • Liza
    November 13, 2015 2:36am

    I hope you are feeling a lot better! I recommend one of those Cranberry Shrub Cocktails (I just made one here!) — thanks for the recipe!

  • Victoria
    November 13, 2015 2:44am

    So sorry to hear about your knee and hope the worst is over. I fell a year ago and my knee just got worse and worse until I finally resorted to physical therapy, ice, and glucosamine chondroitin supplements — amazing what those things combined will do for knees!

  • lifecycle
    November 13, 2015 10:28am

    Your comment about the usefulness of a baguette just cracked me up!
    Knees are awful things – cycling helps.

  • November 13, 2015 5:06pm

    One part of food blogging that I’ve yet to venture into is the art of mixology…I’ve never shared a cocktail recipe but you have inspired me! I hope your knee gets better ASAP – that’s no fun, especially for someone who needs to navigate a kitchen!

  • November 13, 2015 5:14pm

    Pumpkin spice bitters??? Oh my. I have to get my hands on those. This cocktail is singing to me. Almost as much as the image of you brandishing your baguette on a crowded Paris street. No frenchman worth his salt would dare collide with a freshly baked baguette ;-)

  • November 13, 2015 5:53pm

    Knee injuries are tough…speedy healing! Another lesson in mixology; so interesting.

  • November 13, 2015 8:19pm

    I’m sorry to hear that you were felled by injury, but impressed that you still managed to make a shrub while injured. Both the shrub and pumpkin bitters sound fantastic.

  • November 13, 2015 11:41pm

    Wishing you well for a speedy recovery–sadly I cannot think of a better time for you to be immobile. I hope your loved ones are unharmed.

  • Mia
    November 14, 2015 12:52am

    I hope you and everyone you know are safe tonight David! Such atrocious news and horrendous violence. Sending good energy to Paris from a world away in California…

  • Laura M
    November 14, 2015 1:03am

    David, David, are you OKAY after the Paris bombings today? Please answer.

  • Frances
    November 14, 2015 2:15am

    Thoughts and prayers for you and all of Paris at this sad time. Be safe!

  • Betsy kreuter
    November 14, 2015 2:21am

    David,so sorry to hear of your knee issue. I am a PT so I hope you can get some guidance from a PT there. Most importantly,I am thinking of you with the horrible events of today. I hope you are safe as well as your friends. Thinking of you. Sending healing thoughts your way.

  • Beti
    November 14, 2015 3:19am

    I hope you and yours are safe and well. take care.

  • QueensGirl
    November 14, 2015 3:44am

    I hope you and your loved ones are safe and sound this evening.

  • Camellia
    November 14, 2015 3:51am

    Hope you’re safe and well.

    Life’s crazy, one never knows what tomorrow brings.

  • Katherine
    November 14, 2015 5:46am

    Sending love to Paris. Take good care.

  • Daniela
    November 14, 2015 6:28am

    Hope you and your loved ones are safe and well.

  • Laura, from USA
    November 14, 2015 6:38am

    Je suis paris. I am Paris. With you David.

  • Erin D
    November 14, 2015 7:00am

    Dear David-thinking of you and your fellow Parisians today with love and hope.

  • Greg
    November 14, 2015 7:26am

    Wishing you are safe and well. Praying for peace in thus crazy world

  • Cris S
    November 14, 2015 7:46am

    Thinking of all Paris and you and Romain specifically. I check on you and your site daily and have done for years now. You are part of the fabric of my day, and I know this is true for many. There are no words for this…

  • Brigitte
    November 14, 2015 8:51am

    Sending love to Paris. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. There are no words to express our sorrow.

  • Evee
    November 14, 2015 9:14am

    Always enjoy your beautiful writing. Hope you aree well.

  • Debbie
    November 14, 2015 12:27pm

    Dear David,

    Long time reader but have never commented before. Shocked and deeply saddened by the news this morning. Having spent close to year living in Paris, I cannot fathom how difficult it must be for those who are there right now.
    Hope you and your loved ones are all safe and sound.
    Sending good wishes and hugs all the way from India.

  • November 14, 2015 1:39pm

    Take care and stay safe.

  • Ally
    November 14, 2015 2:26pm

    David,

    Never commented, but my family and I read your site regularly. We are so deeply saddened and horrified by the news in these last 24 hours, we hope you and your loved ones are safe.

    Our thoughts are with your city.

  • November 14, 2015 2:31pm
    David Lebovitz

    Thanks to all for your comments related to the tragedies in Paris last night. We are fine but shaken up over what has happened in our community. Our thoughts are with the people who were victims and their friends and families and I hope that after a period of mourning and introspection, there will be a thoughtful discussion and inclusive dialogue about why incidents like this occur and how they can be prevented in the future. And we can all find a way to live peacefully together.

  • Laurie
    November 14, 2015 2:57pm

    David, I’m so sorry for what has happened in your beautiful city. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone in Paris. I’m glad to hear that you are safe and sound and healing from your knee injury. Thank you for all your posts and wonderful recipes. Stay safe!

  • Fiona
    November 14, 2015 2:59pm

    I’m relieved to see your response! Best wishes and may you and yours continue to be well:)

  • Barbara
    November 14, 2015 3:01pm

    I am horrified and sad to the bone to know what has happened – what is happening in this world and now Paris. All I could think about upon hearing the news is whether you and yours are all right.

    So glad to have word from you on here. Hold each other because you can and please stay safe. My prayers are with you and your city.

  • November 14, 2015 3:22pm

    Dear David, as always, your words are so comforting and inspiring and you always say it so beautifully. Praying that we “all find a way to live peacefully together.”

  • Laura Z
    November 14, 2015 3:25pm

    My family is praying for you and for all of Paris today. May goodness, love, and hope triumph over this unspeakable evil.

  • November 14, 2015 3:30pm

    Sending our warmest thoughts your way

  • Debbie in AZ
    November 14, 2015 3:36pm

    I am a long time reader of your wonderful blog. My thoughts and prayers are with you, Paris and all of France in this horrible tragedy.

  • martyfoster
    November 14, 2015 3:37pm

    Thinking of you and glad to hear you and Romain weren’t hurt. We need your witty writing & beautiful photos to keep us cheerful in this crazy world.

  • Hazel
    November 14, 2015 4:06pm

    So glad to hear you and your loved ones are safe. My thoughts are with those who weren’t so fortunate.

  • andrea
    November 14, 2015 4:49pm

    glad you and yours are safe. prayers for peace and comfort for Paris, for France, for us all.

  • Heather Skye
    November 14, 2015 5:20pm

    Horrified to learn of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris! Are you and your friends all right?

    • Heather Skye
      November 14, 2015 5:23pm

      Ah, entering this comment got me to the proper end of the list, so I was able to see your update. Thank you for letting us know.

  • Elisa
    November 14, 2015 6:54pm

    Please post something to let us know you are ok.

    • Bebe
      November 14, 2015 6:59pm

      Scroll up the thread and read David’s Reply at 2:31 PM.

  • Mary
    November 14, 2015 7:57pm

    What a heartache, thinking of you and all of Paris today…… praying for peace
    Mary

  • Victoria
    November 14, 2015 8:17pm

    Dear David, I was devastated to hear of the events in Paris last night but so glad to hear you and loved ones are okay and yes, if only we could all find a way to live peacefully together.

  • Melinda
    November 14, 2015 9:14pm

    David, You and your loved ones are in our thoughts tonight. There really are no words, so just wanted to let you know we stand in solidarity with Paris and all Parisians against hateful acts committed in the name of any god.

  • November 14, 2015 11:39pm

    David–
    Words fail. As someone who has lived in a big place that has suffered a seriously bad event, my sympathies are with you. We love France, we adore Paris– but even if we didn’t know either, we would be sorrowful.
    You’re Our Man In Paris, so it is to you we extend or condolences, but they are not really yours alone– they are for all who live in your marvelous city. If I could reach though the wires to give you a hug, I would.
    All Best,
    Mike Connelly

  • Maria
    November 15, 2015 2:50am

    David,

    Hope the knee is on the mend, but as someone who blew mine out (and both ankles – twice), if you haven’t see a dr – you might need to. It may need to be immobilized.

    As for pain, there is nothing better for than ice IMHO. Pack that thing in ice and numb it.

    — Sending healing vibes and peace from a former Baker’s Dozen alum of yours, back in the old days when we were all on an email list. :)

  • Divya Narang
    November 15, 2015 4:02am

    I was thinking of you after the Paris attacks. I hope you and yours are safe. And I’m a big fan of your recipes here in NYC. Hugs!

    • Divya Narang
      November 15, 2015 4:04am

      Opps, I just realized you posted already. Thanks for letting us know.

  • Fran M.
    November 15, 2015 5:49am

    Glad to hear you and Romain are OK.
    With my best wishes, concern, and affection.

  • AlexC
    November 15, 2015 2:11pm

    Sending our condolences and deepest sympathies to the city and people of the beauteous Paris. Sending all of our love and solidarity to those in pain. Peace is the only answer, always.

  • Maxim
    November 15, 2015 2:51pm

    My family and I are thinking of you through these tragic hours and days. We wish you well. Peace to you.

  • Heidi
    November 15, 2015 2:57pm

    I am so relieved to see in your comment that you and Romain are safe and well. Thank you for letting us know. I too pray that we can all find a way to live in peace.

  • Summer Wu
    November 15, 2015 5:48pm

    Hi David~
    I’m ur fan from Taiwan~just wanna know if u r ok after the attack!
    Best wishes!

  • November 15, 2015 6:28pm

    Just wanted to let you know that I made your cranberry raisin pie this week (I no longer cook but really wanted to try your pie so I invited a few guest just to have an excuse!) and… it tasted like Christmas :) Everyone loved it!

  • Isabella
    November 15, 2015 7:30pm

    So glad to hear you and Romain are alright after the attacks on Paris! My thoughts and my heart are with you, your neighbors, and all those suffering in your beautiful, strong city.

  • Jan
    November 15, 2015 8:56pm

    Trust you are safe.
    The area is home to me when I stay for extended periods, and feel it’s my very own neighbourhood violated.
    Stay safe, keep strong and support each other.
    Warm wishes

  • Chloe
    November 15, 2015 10:54pm

    David, thank you for letting us know you’re ok. As someone said earlier, you’re our man in Paris. You have shared generously with us, and through you we have bonded with Paris and the many places you have shown us. You rightly call for introspection and thoughtful discussion. My thoughts have turned to human connection; may we all endeavor to connect with and see the humanity in people and places plagued by isolation, violence and chaos. Without it, their suffering is abstract. Peace to all. – chloe

  • eddie alabama
    November 16, 2015 10:35am

    “Imagine”

    Imagine there’s no heaven
    It’s easy if you try
    No hell below us
    Above us only sky
    Imagine all the people
    Living for today…

    Imagine there’s no countries
    It isn’t hard to do
    Nothing to kill or die for
    And no religion too
    Imagine all the people
    Living life in peace…

    You may say I’m a dreamer
    But I’m not the only one
    I hope someday you’ll join us
    And the world will be as one

    Imagine no possessions
    I wonder if you can
    No need for greed or hunger
    A brotherhood of man
    Imagine all the people
    Sharing all the world…

    You may say I’m a dreamer
    But I’m not the only one
    I hope someday you’ll join us
    And the world will live as one

    John Lennon

    Je suis paris

  • November 16, 2015 3:19pm

    Wanted to send my support to you and everyone in Paris. My heart breaks for my favorite city and country on earth.

  • Jess
    November 23, 2015 9:42pm

    Hi David: I made the cranberry shrub yesterday and I am planning to use it in cocktails for Thanksgiving. Question: instead of making individual glasses of this, I want to mix the shrub and the alcohol together like a punch so people can serve themselves. I am wondering how much bourbon to add to the shrub to do that (I bought a big bottle!). Any suggestions would be helpful!

    • November 23, 2015 10:10pm
      David Lebovitz

      I would just mix them to taste in the punch, and add anything else – like a splash of orange juice or liqueur, if you wish. Enjoy!

  • November 25, 2015 4:38pm

    Gotta love a good shrub. They are so festive! For those of us who aren’t crazy about cranberries, can you recommend another winter-friendly fruit to use?

    Hope you are feeling better now! Looking forward to meeting you at The Brooklyn Kitchen on the 5th :)

  • November 26, 2015 5:31pm

    I am so, so sorry about your knee, but so, so happy it happened if this was the result. This is the most delicious shrub I’ve ever tasted. So good. Thank you. (and seriously, I hope your knee heels completely and quickly!)

  • Hut
    December 1, 2015 4:39pm

    As much as I love cranberries and always enjoy a new way to use them, I found the baguette sidewalk technique to be the best part of the post. Way to go.

    On a serious note, the mention of using Gin sparked my interest. I’ve enjoyed this with both Dutch and english gin substituting passion fruit vinegar (that was taking up room in the cabinet) and grapefruit bitters. à votre santé

  • Sarah
    December 2, 2015 6:29am

    I hope you get better soon, David!

    I made the shrub and bourbon cocktail today. They were both so delicious. I needed a way to use up leftover cranberries and had just enough apple cider vinegar left. The cocktail is just the right blend of tang and sweet (I also dislike overly sweet cocktails). Nice to soothe my nerves, after putting a cake to bake in the oven, only to remember 10 minutes later that I forgot to add the buttermilk. :P

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