Have you heard the news? Shrubs are so hot right now!
At least in Santa Barbara, but looking at our hip, vibrant cocktail scene (thank you, shmancy college town) I’d venture to guess that shrubs are taking the mixology nation by storm. This Pineapple, Fennel and Lychee Shrub has quickly become my go-to cocktail/mocktail (yes, there are both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions) and I’m pretty sure you’re going to love it just as much as I do.
Believe it or not, shrubs have actually been around since the colonial era in the late 16th century. The original definition of a shrub (according to good ol’ Wikipedia) is a vinegared syrup mixed with water, spirits or carbonated water. Back in the day, shrubs were useful for many reasons: they were easy to smuggle across country borders, they had “medicinal” qualities, and they were a way to preserve spring and summers’ bounties of fresh fruits to enjoy deep in the heart of winter.
I have to admit, I had heard a lot about shrubs, but hadn’t really delved into exploring them until recently. I ordered a Pineapple Ginger Shrub when we were trying out a new bar in town a couple of weeks ago, and I couldn’t get enough! I ordered mine straight up with carbonated water, which was delicious enough, but the bartender assured me it tasted even better with alcohol added to it. Now that I’ve tried a bunch of different concoctions out myself, I don’t doubt him!
After enjoying my Pineapple Ginger Shrub so much, I knew I wanted to try my hand at making something similar at home. My first task was getting my hands on some drinking vinegar, which proved easy enough with a quick search on Amazon. As soon as my eyes came across McClary Bros.’ Pineapple Fennel Seed flavor, I knew I had to order it. Two days later, the drinking vinegar was on my doorstep and I was ready to shrub it up.
Now, like most drinking vinegars do, I knew this tart elixir was going to need some sweetening up. When I found myself in the Asian section at my local grocery store looking for a completely unrelated ingredient, my eyes fell on good ol’ canned lychee. (My fave! I’ve even made my own signature cocktail out of it, the Lychee Lightning.) I had a sneaking suspicion that it would be the perfect sweetener for my Pineapple and Fennel Seed drinking vinegar, and boy was I right! The Pineapple, Fennel and Lychee Shrub was born.
But enough of me gushing about my newfound love for this (apparently) OG ingredient, let’s get to the recipe! This one’s a little different than my usual cocktail posts, because the base recipe is actually the non-alcoholic version. Don’t fret, though, because I tasted through a few different options for alcoholic additions (oh, the things I do for you) and have included my notes/recommendations on those as well.
Once you have all of the ingredients, this Pineapple, Fennel and Lychee Shrub comes together in no time at all. There’s no pureeing or shaking or cutting or peeling, just a simple stir of the base ingredients and a top-off of club soda.
If you don’t have a grocery store with a good Asian section near you, have no fear, the canned lychees can also be found on Amazon along with the McClary Bros. Pineapple and Fennel Seed Drinking Vinegar.
Finally, there’s a reason I chose to share this with you today, as we head into this food and booze-filled Super Bowl weekend. This Pineapple, Fennel and Lychee Shrub is THE perfect drink for sipping on while you’re watching the big game, because the amount of alcohol you add (if you choose to add any at all) is completely up to you. I recommend 1.5 ounces for a regular cocktail strength, but you could easily use less if you want to pace yourself, or forego it altogether if you’re the DD (while still enjoying a tasty drink to boot!)
And if you want to make this before you have time to get a hold of this particular shrub, I highly recommend you use whatever flavor you can find and try your hand at a winning flavor combination. The possibilities are endless!
A delicious, refreshing drinking vinegar concoction that can be made with or without alcohol with the distinguishing flavors of pineapple, fennel seed and lychee.
- 1 1/2 ounces McClary Bros. Pineapple and Fennel Seed Drinking Vinegar
- 2 ounces lychee juice (from canned lychee)
- 1 1/2 ounces alcohol of your choice (optional, see notes for recommendations)
- 4 dashes Angostura bitters
- Club soda
In a tall glass, combine drinking vinegar, lychee juice, alcohol (if using) and bitters.
Fill glass ¾ of the way full with crushed ice.
Top with club soda.
If you’d like to add alcohol to your shrub, follow these recommendations based on your personal preferences: Add white rum for a tropical feel, add gin for a more floral taste, add vodka to keep the current flavor profile but give the drink some kick, and add whiskey to bring out the spicier notes. My personal favorites were the rum and the gin!
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