Calling all cocktail, kombucha, preservers, and soda fans! This cranberry thyme shrub is just what you need to spruce up your cocktails, mocktails, and dressings this holiday season!
What is a Shrub Drink?
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.
Are Drinking Vinegars Good for You?
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.
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.
Are Shrub Drinks Always Alcoholic?
Cocktail shrubs or drinking vinegars don’t always use alcohol. You can mix them with water, club soda, or sparkling water, and you can use this cranberry thyme shrub recipe any way you like! I like to drink mine 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 Thyme 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!
Make Homemade Cranberry Thyme Cocktail Shrub Syrup
To get started, you will need the following ingredients:
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.
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.
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 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. A shrub does not have to be refrigerated but I prefer to refrigerate them. They can last for years. I have some 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 shrub.
What do I do with those extra cranberry bits I strained out?
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.
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Cranberry Thyme Shrub
- 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, step by step instructions, and tips November of 2019.