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How to: Blackberry Shrub Recipe

Blackberry Shrub Recipe

Blackberry Shrub is a delicious and healthy way to enjoy great blackberry flavors year round. This blackberry shrub recipe features fresh blackberry, lime and thai basil. It is delicious and easy to make.

What is a Shrub?

If you are not familiar with shrubs you should get to know them, A shrub is sometimes known as a drinking vinegar. At its simplest it is syrup made with vinegar.

Before refrigeration was widely available people often preserved fruits and vegetables with a combination of sugar and vinegar. The resulting syrup was as delicious as the food that was being preserved. It wasn’t long before people started adding alcohol to it.

Shrubs may be having a moment right now, but their history goes back thousands of years. Acetic acid in vinegar is an effective sterilizer. In ancient rome the army drank a mixture of vinegar, herbs and water known as posca. The vinegar kills the bacteria in the water and the vitamins helped ward off scurvy.

Cooks in the 18th and 19th centuries documented their shrub recipes really well. Cookbooks from Ben Franklin and George Washington’s kitchens feature shrub. During the prohibition era temperance workers touted shrubs as a tasty alternative to alcohol.

It seems everyone is rediscovering shrubs. They are a fantastic ingredients for cocktails. They can also be used to make a delicious tart, dry natural soda. It is no wonder shrubs are suddenly showing up all over the place.

Blackberry Shrub

Blackberries run wild on Vancouver Island. The dense thorny brambles spread out anywhere they can get a foothold. In late July and early August every roadside, trail and clearing is rich with the juicy dark fruit.

You can spend long summer days picking ripe berries. You fill buckets of blackberries staining your hands and getting shredded by thorns.

Then you have to race to do something with them. In our house they become jam, soda, blackberry wine, popsicles, sorbets and ice cream. Some of them get muddled into cocktails. Everybody’s favorite is this blackberry shrub.

Like our Cherry Lime Soda recipe this blackberry shrub recipe relies on the juxtaposition on dark fruit and lime juice. It is a pretty powerful combination. I like to add a bit of Thai basil to the mix for a little anise flavor. That part is optional. You can use mint if you have some on hand. Or dispense with the herbs altogether.

Blackberry Shrub Recipe

Making a blackberry shrub is really pretty easy. It is all about the prep and the waiting.

This recipe relies on a cold process. That means we don’t cook anything. I prefer it because it simplifies cleanup and I can control when I want to work on it.

How to Make a Cold Press Shrub

The process is simple. With berries and other soft fruits you can throw the fruit and sugar in a container and let it rest for a day or two. The sugar will draw all the juice out of the fruit. That leaves you with a delicious syrup.

Then you mix in the sugar and maybe some water until it is dissolved. Strain out the solids and add your vinegar.

Then you just let it all rest for a few days to work it flavor magic. That’s it. Put it in a bottles and you have a delicious shrub.

3 Steps to a Cold Press Shrub

  1. Macerate fruit in sugar.
  2. Separate fruit syrup and solids.
  3. Add vinegar & allow shrub to rest.

The huge advantage of this process is that each step is pretty quick and you can wait in between. You can throw some sugar and berries in a container and put them in the fridge before you head off to work. The next time you have a few minutes you can strain them out and add vinegar.

The first step is to make a syrup by mixing the blackberries with the sugar. When you leave them alone for a day or two something magical happens. The sugar draws the juice out of the fruit. In time, you have a delicious blackberry syrup and some fruit solids. The you strain out and discard the solids. Finally, all you have to do is add the vinegar.

If you use an unpasteurized vinegar the active cultures transform the flavor of the shrub. The liquid will start to ferment a little producing more vinegar. The fermentation will stall out before the whole solution turns to vinegar. This is how your blackberry shrub becomes more than the sum of its parts.

Between the vinegar and sugar you will have an indefinite shelf life. In our house we are just finishing last year’s blackberry shrub as this year’s crop of blackberries ripens.

Blackberry Shrub Recipe

Blackberry Shrub Recipe


  • 2 cups blackberries
  • zest and juice of four limes
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar


  1. Zest and juice the limes. Reserve the juice.
  2. Optional - Mix the lime zest and the sugar in a bowl. Let the lime zest macerate in the sugar overnight.
  3. Mix the berries in with the lime zest and sugar and gently mash them to release the juice.
  4. Allow the mixture to macerate overnight until all of the juice is drawn out of the berries.
  5. Strain out the solids and discard.
  6. Stir in the apple cider vinegar and mix until all of the sugar is dissolved.
  7. Pour the syrup and vinegar mixture into a mason jar and seal it. Shake it up to mix everything and let it rest in the refrigerator for a week before serving.

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