Picture this: it’s 15th century England, and you’re sick with scurvy after traveling by sea for several months. You visit the doctor for treatment, and he prescribes you something called shrub, a drinkable, fruit-infused vinegar.
You guessed it: that shrub medicine from 15th century England is the same shrub taking bars and restaurants by storm today. Although shrubs seem to be a hot new drink trend, there’s quite a bit of history behind this modernized, healthy drink mix!
Drinking vinegar has been around since the Babylonians, who mixed date vinegar with their water to make it safe to drink. Fast-forward to 15th century England, prior to refrigeration, fruit was preserved in barrels of vinegar. This fruit-infused vinegar – known as the shrub – was strained out and drank for medicinal purposes. At the time, people believed shrubs could revitalize the heart and cure disease.
Sailors were especially drawn to shrubs while at sea, as they were thought to ward off evil and prevent ailments. Remember your trip to the doctor in 15th century England? Scurvy was common among sailors from lack of vitamin C, so shrubs were believed to prevent this disease.
Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, shrubs became even more popular when mixed with liquor. Shrubs were mostly drunk with rum or sparkling wine, with sugar or honey added as a sweetener. When English settlers traveled to colonial America, they brought the shrub with them. Fun fact: in the earliest recipe books, there are instructions for how to make shrubs!
Shrubs fell off the map with the advent of refrigeration, because vinegar was no longer needed to preserve fruit. Generally, shrubs were only drunk at Christmas time by the late 1800s, combined with raisins, lemon, sherry, and rum. It’s only in recent years that shrubs have grown in popularity once again.
So why are shrubs back in the spotlight today? The significant health benefits of drinking shrubs make it a healthy alternative to sugary sodas and juice. With its bold, unique flavor, shrubs add dynamic taste to classic cocktails and otherwise boring mocktails. It’s no surprise shrubs have stood the test of time!
Congratulations – this completes your brief history lesson on shrubs! The next time you’re at a cocktail lounge with your friends and everyone orders a shrub mixed drink, you’ll be able to impress them with some shrub knowledge. And did you know you can also use shrubs at home? Order some Anna’s Kitchen Shrubs today, so you can pretend it’s 17th century England when you serve shrub drinks at your next dinner party!
Handcrafted by Anna Scott in her own kitchen and manufactured locally in Rhode Island, Anna’s Kitchen Shrubs are made with certified organic fruits, vegetables, herbs and raw apple cider vinegar with the mother. Anna’s Kitchen Shrubs are offered in 5 unique, award-winning flavors and can be added to your cocktails, mocktails, salad dressings, marinades, sauces, or can simply act as a refreshing drinking vinegar.
Anna’s Kitchen LLC. is a privately held company operating out of Barrington, RI with widespread distribution capabilities for businesses and consumers through direct online ordering, at various grocery and liquor stores, or by partnering with purveyors.