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Shrubs (or drinking vinegars) will add a little zing to your summer drinks

Step up your summer beverages with drinking vinegars — perfect for everything from cocktails to lemonade.
Shrubs are sweet-yet-acidic mixtures of fruit, sugar and vinegar that give drinks a major flavor boost.
Shrubs are sweet-yet-acidic mixtures of fruit, sugar and vinegar that give drinks a major flavor boost.Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes
/ Source: TODAY

They're fruity, tart and great for cocktails — but they're not just for cocktails.

Shrubs, vinegar-based syrups infused with herbs, fruits and spices, are the perfect addition to any summer drink, whether you're looking to punch up your favorite lemonade recipe or create the perfect back-porch cocktail.

Brenda Mulero, the bar chef at Highball and Harvest, a restaurant within Orlando's Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes, said shrub-making has become a passion of hers during the more than seven years she's been creating ingredients like shrubs, bitters and syrups for the hotel.

Brenda Mulero is the bar chef at Highball and Harvest, a restaurant located inside the Ritz Carlton Grande Lakes hotel.Ritz Carlton Grande Lakes

"All shrubs are made with vinegar, a mix of fruit and sugar," Mulero told TODAY Food. "You can put some other ingredients like spice, vanilla bean or ginger root into them, but the base of all shrubs are sugar, fruit and vinegar."

To make shrubs, Mulero chooses a combination of fruit, vinegar and sugar and mixes them, leaving them to infuse for at least 10 days in the refrigerator.

"The more days you leave it, the more flavor your shrubs will have," she explained. "And if you like things on the spicier side, you can add things like jalapeño to add spiciness — just don't put too much or the spice can take over the shrub and become too spicy."

While shrubs (derived from the Arabic word "sharbah," which translates to "drink") were used in colonial America as a method of preserving fruit, using vinegar instead of citrus juice, they've made a reappearance in bars throughout the U.S. in recent years, where they're often used in craft cocktails or combined with club soda to create a fruity, bubbly drink.

Mulero said she loves making shrubs with ingredients like spiced apple, blackberries or passion fruit, and she suggested getting creative with different types of sugars and vinegars.

"Spiced apple goes really well with a quality bourbon," said Mulero. "Or passion fruit is great with rum or gin or tequila."

Still, there are more uses for shrubs than just in cocktails.

"To make a mocktail is easy," said Mulero, "you can make a lemonade with a little bit of the shrub added or a tea or another juice. For the spiced apple you could do a mix of apple juice and lemon juice and the shrub."

You can also cook with shrubs.

"Add a little bit if you're going to make something like chicken," Mulero suggested. "Put it in a bag with maybe a rub and the shrub and leave it for 24 hours or even less: It will add a little bit of interesting flavor to your meal."

Mulero shared three of her favorite shrub recipes with TODAY:

Shrubs, vinegar-based syrups, can be used for everything from cocktails to cooking.Ritz Carlton Grande Lakes/Koni Kim

Date Shrub

  • 2 cups whole dates
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup ginger root
  • 4 cups rice vinegar

Combine ingredients in a large Mason jar and allow to infuse for at least 10 days in a cool space before using.

Blackberry Shrub

  • 2 cups blackberries
  • 1 whole vanilla bean
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 4 cups red wine vinegar

Combine ingredients in a large Mason jar and allow to infuse for at least 10 days in a cool space before using.

Spiced Apple Shrub

  • 2 apples, chopped
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 5 whole star anise
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 whole nutmeg
  • 4 cups apple cider vinegar

Combine ingredients in a large Mason jar and allow to infuse for at least 10 days in a cool space before using.