Apples, grapes, rice, malt, sugarcane, even coconut—vinegar can be made from just about any food that contains natural sugars. People have been making and using vinegars in ferments, cooking and salad dressings for more than 10,000 years. In many traditions, they are revered as medicine, too—said to aid digestion, reduce blood pressure and speed up metabolism. In Colonial America, drinking vinegars known as shrubs—traditionally, berries steeped in vinegar, then strained and sweetened with honey or sugar—was a way to preserve the harvest in the absence of refrigeration. In recent years, mixologists have embraced them as a cocktail ingredient, or served them as a refreshing nonalcoholic drink when mixed with sparkling water and garnishes. Cardamom pods, star anise and other herbs, ginger root, citrus and more have joined a roster of fruits being made into shrubs. Here are popular variations from hotel bars around the country.
The Darcy, Washington, D.C.
For meeting breaks, this stylish new hotel in the nation’s capital offers attendees the chance to create their own fizzy drink with a shrub of their choosing and seltzer. Flavors include chai-pear, cranberry-hibiscus, blood orange-saffron and honeydew-jalapeno. Tending the seltzer bar will be Charlie Berkinshaw, founder of Element [Shrub], who makes his shrubs with organic apple-cider vinegar in nearby Arlington, Virginia.
Hotel Emma, San Antonio
The Pearl is a signature cocktail at this Riverwalk hotel in a 19th-century Pearl Brewhouse. It’s a slightly spritzy, kicked-up take on a bloody Mary. Vodka is the base, of course, with accents of lemon and mineral water, but the true star is housemade tomato consume with nearly a dozen ingredients, including a shrub made with celery.
At Vesper lobby bar, which is so glittery and mirrored it feels like being inside a bon vivant’s ice cave, an off-menu cocktail debuted last spring with two surprise ingredients—passion fruit-strawberry tea and housemade pink peppercorn-strawberry shrub. This easy-drinking temptation is rounded out with gin, lemon juice and Velvet Falernum, a spiced-citrusy-sweet syrup typically used to flavor Caribbean cocktails.
The Kimpton Brice Hotel, Savannah, GA
This historic-district Kimpton is a cobblestone’s throw from famed River Street. In summer months at its Pacci Restaurant, ask for a Just Beat It. Colorful red beet syrup and a blood-orange shrub pair with rye whiskey, mezcal and lemon juice to lend a touch of spicy smoke to this inventive—and dare we say, almost healthy?—cocktail. Bar manager Sidney Lance garnishes it with a slice of fresh persimmon.
ArtBar at this AAA Four Diamond hotel on the Charles River uses the cold method of creating shrubs—a days-long process—to make flavors really pop. Bartenders then mix up La Perla, a drink with vodka, prosecco, raspberry-thyme shrub and lime juice. Or, skipping the booze, they’ll do a Blueberry Thyme Smash, made from blueberry-thyme shrub, lime juice, simple syrup and club soda.