Sipping vinegars have been making a comeback within local artisan food communities. Sipping vinegars, also known as shrubs or in some variations as a switchel, have been around for a long time. During Colonial times, vinegar was used to preserve fruit for the off season and the resulting beverage was called a shrub. Switchel was another drink from that era, made from ginger, honey, vinegar, molasses, and water - also called haymaker's punch - and was often taken to the fields by farmworkers. A switchel was used like gatorade or sports drinks today - to refresh, cool, and replenish. I like them because the flavor options are endless, and they are a nice way to combine the medicinal or immune system boosting power of herbs with fizzy delicious better-than-a-can-of-soda-could-ever-be flavors. In this house we have some intolerance to corn syrup and manufactured citric acid so we don't do canned sodas. BUT we sometimes still love fizzy drinks. Water kefir, honey sweetened fruit syrups, and shrubs are our favorite homemade concoctions.
This blend contains a rich combination of flavors. Elderberry, holy basil, astragalus, rose hips, ginger, citrus peel, and hibiscus. I like this in spring when we need a little immune system boost and support after a long winter and with the start of spring cold & allergy season.
holy basil-elderberry shrub
The ratio is basically 4:1. 4 parts honey/vinegar with 1 part herb. I measured by cup for this reason. With medicinals it is preferred to weigh not measure, but this is a beverage with some boost, so using cup measures will work just fine.
Add your dried herbs to a pot with 2.5 cups of vinegar. I used 2.25 cups of raw ACV (apple cider vinegar) plus .25 cups of coconut vinegar (it has a mellow sweet flavor with a lot of minerals), but you can use all ACV if you prefer. Do not use the plain white distilled vinegar you use for your cleaning or pickles. It will be gross. Champagne vinegar is an OK substitute, but ACV is your best bet.
To drink, add 1/4 cup sipping vinegar to a glass, fill with sparkling water, club soda, or seltzer. Try mixing a bit into your pitcher of iced tea. Mix with sparkling wine or champagne. Or, take as a tonic by sipping a tablespoon or so in a small shot or cordial glass. For kids, the best is 1/4 cup of your shrub in a glass with ice and sparkling or soda water.
Combining the concept of alcohol free tincture or oxymels with the day to day deliciousness of a shrub means you can have a tasty refreshing fizzy soda with the benefits of the herbs!
I am a certified aromatherapist, clinical herbalist, permaculture designer, organic gardener, plant conservationist, photographer, writer, designer, artist, nature lover, health justice activist, whole foods maker, and mother of two young adults in south central Wisconsin.
©2007-23 Denise Cusack, all photos and text. Feel free to share my posts on FB or Twitter or online media or pin on Pinterest (thank you!), but please keep the links back to my website intact (meaning please do not take or copy my images off of this website and share them unattributed or without linking back here or use them without permission). Thank you! :)
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