What is a shrub cocktail?

Carl Brown from Dishoom restaurant in London explains what a shrub cocktail is.

A shrub is a way of using vinegar or alcohol with fruit to preserve a flavour, and it’s becoming popular again in cocktails and we use them on our menu at Dishoom.


There are two types of shrub – both originated in England. The first emerged around 1680 when smuggling was widespread because of heavy import taxes. Smugglers would bring barrels of spirits ashore from the coast of Cornwall. During the journey the seawater would taint the spirits, so the smugglers added ripe fruit to the barrels to mask the saltiness. I add a pinch of salt to my shrubs for this reason. 

The second type of shrub was fruit vinegar. This was a way of making use of the glut of fruit at the end of a season. This style of shrub is first recorded around 1790 and later became very popular in the USA and widely used in their cocktails. To make this shrub, you combine vinegar, sugar, fruit and leave it to macerate into a cordial/shrub. This is then added to a cocktail for flavour. 


Carl Brown (pictured here) works for Dishoom.