Calling all cocktail, kombucha, preservers, and soda fans! This cranberry shrub is just what you need to spruce up your cocktails, mocktails, and dressings this holiday season!
Why Make this Recipe & Why it Works
Vinegar as a beverage has been around for a long time in cocktails, but now every grocery store has a wide variety of apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, raw vinegar drinks, kombuchas, kefirs, and various other offerings.
This cranberry shrub recipe is ideal for any occasion where you’d like to offer a non-alcoholic drink option - and perfect if you need something child-friendly at a party! It’s also a fun recipe if you, like me, enjoy a tasty drink without alcohol every once in a while.
The cranberry thyme combination works because the minty sharpness of the thyme is refreshing when contrasted with the tart cranberries. This shrub is easy to make, yet shows you’ve put some extra thought and care into the drink.
Ingredients & Substitutions
fresh cranberries - this recipe does not work with dried cranberries, they must be fresh.
apple cider vinegar - You can substitute other mild vinegars like champagne vinegar.
turbinado sugar - you can also use granulated sugar, but the turbinado sugar adds a depth of molasses flavor that yields a smoother finished shrub.
First things first, the cranberries need to be prepped. Preheat your oven to 400F. Pour your fresh cranberries out onto a large baking tray. Drizzle the cranberries with honey, pour the apple juice over them, and cook in the oven for 15-18 minutes until the cranberries start to burst.
Remove and set aside, allowing the cranberries to cool to room temperature.
Muddle together the cooked cranberries, thyme, and sugar in a pestle and mortar, or similar container. (Shop my favorite mortar and pestle here!) The sugar will dissolve to create a thick cranberry sauce mixture. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for 2 hours.
After the cranberry mixture has been sitting for 2 hours, add in your vinegar. The equal parts sugar and vinegar help to balance each other out. Muddle the vinegar cranberry mixture thoroughly. Then, transfer your cranberry shrub mixture to a quart sized jar, and refrigerate for 2 days before using.
After the 2 days have passed, open your jar and muddle again, very well. Strain and discard the skins, squeezing the cranberries to release all the juices.
A shrub does not have to be refrigerated but I prefer to refrigerate them. They can last for years. I have some cranberry shrub in my refrigerator from a large batch I made two years ago and still use it regularly. Add to your cocktails, mocktails, sparkling water, and enjoy this tasty drink!
This recipe yields about 10 oz. of cranberry shrub.
How to Use this Recipe
I like to drink this cranberry shrub with sparkling water - it tastes almost kombucha-like, and I get to enjoy it as a fun, after work mocktail. Shrubs are very versatile, and I usually use it these 4 ways:
- Cranberry Shrub - Add 1-2 tbsp of the shrub to 1 cup of sparkling or flat water.
- Salad Dressings - I just love mixing a little of the shrub with some olive oil, salt and pepper to make a unique and delicious salad dressing. 1 part shrub, 3 parts olive oil.
- Cocktails - Add a little of the shrub instead of your regular simple syrup, and you have a super easy cranberry shrub cocktail.
- Meats - Use your shrub as a glaze for meats.
Not cranberry season? Try this recipe for a delicious Sour Cherry Shrub here!
Cranberry Shrub FAQs
A shrub is a non-alcoholic syrup made by combining fruits, sugars, aromatic spices, and vinegar. When the shrub syrup is added to a beverage, it becomes a shrub drink! Shrubs are commonly found added to cocktails and drank with alcohol.
Vinegar as a health aid has been used for centuries as a detoxifier, as an antibacterial agent, as an antibiotic... nowadays the internet is filled with articles on the ability of vinegar drinks to lower blood sugar levels, aid weight loss, lower cholesterol, etc. Vinegar does seem to have various health benefits, but the degree to which it can help in these areas is still being researched.
Cocktail shrubs or drinking vinegars don’t always use alcohol. You can mix them with water, club soda, or sparkling water as a mocktail or refreshing drink.
They are incredibly delicious as a relish over duck, grilled steak, or even chicken! This festive, holiday shrub is just what you need this holiday season.
In cocktail making, to muddle ingredients means to mush them against the side of the glass with a muddler. It helps release the flavor of whichever ingredient so that it combines better with the alcohol in the cocktail. Some well known muddled drinks include the Mojito, Caipirinha and the Mint Julep.
When cranberries are in season, I love using them as much as possible because they are such a treat. Here are my favorite ways to use them:
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Cranberry Thyme Shrub
- Mortar & Pestle
- 12 oz cranberries
- 1/4 cup apple juice
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1 cup turbinado sugar
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar or champagne vinegar
- Preheat your oven to 400F.
- Pour your cranberries onto a baking tray. Drizzle with honey, pour over the apple juice, and cook 15-18 minutes until the cranberries start to burst. Allow to cool to room temperature.
- Muddle together the cooked cranberries, thyme, and sugar. Let sit at room temperature for 2 hours.
- Add your vinegar. Muddle well. Transfer to a quart sized jar. Refrigerate for 2 days.
- After the 2 days, open your jar and muddle again, very well. Strain and discard the skins.
This post was originally published in December of 2018, but was republished with new photos and step by step instructions, in November of 2019. In October 2020, it was republished with new tips and ingredient substitution options.