For a variety of reasons (health, religious, fitness, and probably some others) some people don’t want to consume alcohol (or are looking to consume less of it).  It was requested that I put together an article talking about Mocktails.  So, rather than just putting together a blurb that said replace any clear spirit with ginger ale, and slapping it up.  I went through a couple of tests, and have returned with some items you can make to feel like a part of cocktail culture even when there’s no alcohol involved.  Keep in mind, if you’re dropping alcohol for calorie concerns, these won’t be much help as they’ll still have sugar and fruit juices in them.

The basis for these drinks is called a shrub (or drinking vinegar).  These were used as a way to preserve fruits from the end of harvest, when you didn’t have enough to make into preserves or ferment.  There’s two methods to making them, both will require three ingredients in approximately equal measure:

  • Fruit
  • Vinegar
  • Sugar

I’ll start with the cold method, as it’s the easiest.  Start by taking a clean container, putting in your fruit and gently muddling it (or freezing it first, which will also break down the cell walls).  Then pour in the vinegar, put on a lid, and give it a gentle shake.  Let that infuse for about a week at room temperature, shaking it once a day or so.  Then you’ll strain out the berries, add in the sugar (or infused simple syrup), and stir/shake to mix it up.  Let it sit for another week or so, and then put it in the fridge.

For the hot method, put the vinegar into a pan, and bring up to just below a simmer.  Add in the sugar, and stir until dissolved.  Then add in your fruit, and let it cool.  Then let it sit for a week, strain out the fruit, and chill it.

When you’re making these, I would suggest staying away from just basic white vinegar, and going with something that will also add some flavor.  Two basic flavor profiles I worked with were:

Berry shrub with equal parts of each:

  • Berries
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • White sugar

Watermelon shrub with two parts of watermelon to the other ingredients (watermelon isn’t known for its overpowering flavor):

  • Watermelon puree
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Agave syrup

Now to drink these, you could try drinking it straight but I wouldn’t recommend it as it’ll be quite syrupy.  Instead add some of the chilled shrub to a glass, and top with water (flavored sparkling water can work a treat here).  Now if you were so inclined, you could also add a splash of a white liquor to the drink as well, but it isn’t necessary (or you know… ginger ale).

I would also recommend to stay away from using anything too acidic for the fruit category (no citrus), as the vinegar will be providing the acidic side.  You can also go with herbs or spices as well, but you’ll need to adjust the vinegar and sugar ratio to taste.