Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Yesterday I mentioned ‘shrub’ – an old fashioned drink worthy of its own post, and more than worthy of rediscovery. ‘Shrub’, according to the Oxford English Dictionary is:

“A prepared drink made with the juice of orange or lemon (or other acid fruit), sugar, and rum (or other spirit).Often rum-shrub; also with other qualifying words indicating the ingredient which takes the place of the rum in drinks prepared in this way to which the name ‘shrub’ is extended.”

The name comes ultimately from the Arabic 'shurb', meaning drink or draught, so it is related to ‘sherbert’ (and via Italy, to sorbet.) The first mention in the OED is from Elizabeth Moxon’s English Housewifry, and I give you her recipe below. It seems that it was the base for the ubiquitous punch, without which no social occasion would have been complete. Today, in our more hurried life, it might perhaps be very refreshing diluted with soda water or lemonade. 

To Make Orange Shrub.
Take Sevile Oranges when they are full ripe, to three dozen oranges put half a dozen of large lemons, pare them very thin, the thinner the better, squeeze the lemons and oranges together, strain the juice thro’ a hair sieve, to a quart of the juice put a pound and a quarter of sugar; about three dozen oranges (if they be good) will make a quart of juice, to every quart of juice put a gallon of brandy, put it into a barrel with an open bung with all the chippings of your oranges, and bung it up close; when it is fine, bottle it.
This is a pleasant dram, and ready for punch all the year.
English Housewifry: exemplified in above four hundred and fifty receipts giving directions in most parts of cookery ... with an appendix containing upwards of sixty receipts, by Elizabeth Moxon, 1743.


Keith said...

Good one. I will post your link.

Deana Sidney said...

I made a cherry shrub and loved it... so refreshing. Great history!!!

M said...

Interesting. This conflicts with the modern definition of a shrub being a vinegar-fruit syrup that can be added to drinks.

I wonder where the modern variation came about, or if some older recipes were more vinegar than liquor. Perhaps the vinegar is a result of fermentation in older shrub recipes and then letting the fermentation go off, resulting in vinegar?

By the way, a link to a modern shrub recipe:

Lapinbizarre said...

Early 19th century silver labels inscribed "Shrub", to hang on decanter necks, are not uncommon.

The Old Foodie said...

Thanks Le Loup!
Lapinbizarre - now i want one of those bottle labels. I have always wanted some grape scissors too. I dont usually lust after useless things, but sometimes i make an exception.