Cheers and Happy New Year to you! This recipe was inspired by a mocktail I had at Vedge restaurant in Philadelphia. On the menu, it was called Pickpocket Soda, and it was described as a Beet Sage Shrub with Lemon. My recipe here is adapted from the Beet and Lemon Shrub Cocktail from Russ and Daughters delicatessen in New York City, and (after three tries) it tastes remarkably like the drink I liked so much at Vedge. I found the Russ and Daughters recipe a bit too watery, so I’ve reduced the water by 20%. I increased the vinegar to be closer to the normal shrub ratio, and I also switched to a white balsamic vinegar (rather than plain white vinegar) which gives a smoother flavor. My big trick here is that I used canned beets, which might seem like blaspheme to some, but it came out delicious, and it makes this so quick and easy to throw together. This is a cold-process sweet shrub, to give a bright and fresh flavor. One reason for using canned or cooked fresh beets is that many people cannot eat raw beets or drink raw beet juice because it can cause an allergic reaction or a sore, swollen throat, which can be dangerous. Of course, many people can enjoy raw beets, so you could try to eat a tiny sliver of raw beet and see if your throat reacts. I tried eating a sliver of raw beet and had a sore throat all day. Please see my post on growing beets for more of an explanation. Back to the recipe–you can use this shrub in a variety of beverages, from sodas to cocktails. I don’t drink alcohol, but Lars made a cocktail with about 4 oz. of shrub, a couple splashes of seltzer and a shot of fancy gin, and he says it’s really good. The cookbook Shrubs by Michael Dietsch is a great little guide to this ancient and historic libation. If you really want to go crazy, you can try this drink called The Hot Pink, but it only makes enough for one drink, unlike my base which makes plenty!
BEET AND LEMON SHRUB
Makes somewhat less than two quarts, I think.
Special Equipment: a juicer
2 15 oz. cans whole or sliced beets, drained (or equivalent amt. of fresh cooked beets)
1 Cup fresh lemon juice (from about 5 large lemons, or 6 medium lemons)
1/2 Cup white balsamic vinegar
1/2 Cup vegan cane sugar
4 Cups filtered water
chilled seltzer water to add some fizz to individual drinks, if desired
Squeeze lemons and set the fresh lemon juice aside. Drain the beets and discard any liquid from the cans. Juice the beets (you will end up with approximately 1/2 Cup of pure beet juice). In a large glass (non-reactive) container, whisk together all ingredients until sugar is fully dissolved. Refrigerate 48 hours before using. Some people prefer to leave shrubs at room temperature for a day or two before refrigerating, to let more fermentation occur. Some online sources say a shrub should last several months to a year in the refrigerator.
Notes: I tried using Lakewood bottled lemon juice and the flavor was significantly better with the fresh lemon juice. I also tried using the beet liquid from the cans, but it muddied up the flavor–don’t do it. Chlorine and Chloramines interfere with fermentation, and a shrub is a fermented beverage. If you cannot get filtered water, leave tap water out for a couple of days–long enough for any chlorine to evaporate. You can check with your water supplier to find out if your tap water has chloramines in it, which do not evaporate and cannot be boiled off. Filtered water is best. Other beet posts on this site include Growing Beets, Cinnamon Stick Quick Pickled Beets, Roasted Beet Salad, and Salt-Roasted Golden Beets with Dill, Avocado, Capers and Red Onion.