Holiday parties are always a bit of a juggling act. So many guests, and so many preferences! But I can help you with the drinks, especially if you’ve got guests abstaining from alcohol who still want something fun and exciting to drink.
This cranberry tangerine shrub recipe beats the pants off of water or plain old juice when it comes to a holiday beverage, and, for the guests who are looking for cocktails, this easily mixes up with spirits too!
This Shrub Is for Drinking
Let’s tackle the name first: no, this “shrub” has nothing to do with those found on your front lawn. A shrub is a hundreds of years old term that actually encompasses a number of techniques to make and enjoy a vinegar-based beverage. For today’s recipe, we’ll be focusing on shrubs as a drinking vinegar that preserves fruit juice. For a deeper dive on shrubs and their history, I highly recommend you read the book Shrubs by Michael Dietsch.
Shrubs can be made with any fruit, or combination of fruit, herbs, spices—you name it. If there’s a fruit combo you love eating together, chances are you’ll love it in a shrub too; they’re wonderfully versatile like that. For winter and holiday parties, I like to go with what’s in season. Cranberries and tangerines will likely be available in your grocery store at this time of year, and are a great combination that pairs well with holiday foods, too.
The cranberries provide a strong tartness that is balanced by the sweet tangerines. If you have trouble finding tangerines where you are, you can sub in a sweet orange like a navel or cara cara. (Steer clear of the more bitter varieties or you’ll need to add additional sugar to your recipe.) And with the cranberries, fresh or frozen is fine, as you’ll be blending them for the recipe
Go With Good Vinegar
Since a shrub has minimal ingredients (usually), the quality and type of each ingredient is important. Just as the fruits can vary for a shrub, so can the vinegar. Use a high quality vinegar here, as you’ll be drinking it! Many shrubs can use vinegars such as red wine, apple cider, or champagne, but do not use distilled white vinegar; it’s harsh and not pleasant here. For this recipe I use apple cider vinegar, but I encourage you to play with different vinegar types to see which are the most appealing for your palette.
Ways to Serve This Shrub
Shrubs can be served up a variety of ways, and can stay non-alcoholic, or can serve as the base of a fun cocktail. The recipe below is booze-free, but if you want to change that, a white rum, vodka, or even a sparkling wine can be substituted for the sparkling water. I like to serve this in a highball glass, with lots of ice and a few cranberries skewered as a garnish. Sugared cranberries are also nice if you have them on hand, and make for a festive garnish for parties.
Festive N/A Drinks
Cranberry Tangerine Shrub
Heads up, this shrub takes two days to make!
A serrated Y peeler is your best bet for removing the tangerine zest (the orange outside part), without getting any of the white pith (the part that separates the flesh and skin). The white pith is bitter and will impart that taste into your drink. Don’t use a microplane to grate the zest, as you’ll need to remove it from the sugar later on.
1/2 cup sugar
Strips zest of 3 tangerines, preferably organic (see recipe note)
2 cups whole cranberries (thawed if frozen), rinsed
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
Sparkling water, for serving
- 1 (1-quart) glass jar
Muddle the zest and sugar:
In a quart glass jar, toss the sugar and zest together. Lightly muddle the zest into the sugar with either a bar muddler, or the back of a wooden spoon (the zest will soften as it sits in the sugar in the next step). Cover and let rest on the counter for 2 hours.
Juice the tangerines:
In the meantime, juice the 3 tangerines. You should have about 1/2 cup of juice. Set aside.
Blend the cranberries and vinegar:
Combine the cranberries and the apple cider vinegar in a blender. Blend to a puree, about 20 - 30 seconds. Set aside.
Remove the zest from the sugar:
After 2 hours, remove the zest from the sugar and discard (or compost!).
Mix the infused sugar with the infused vinegar:
Pour the tangerine juice and pureed cranberries into the container with the sugar. Mix to combine. The mixture will be thick.
Let steep 2 days:
Cover the container with a tea towel, or other lightweight cover, and leave on the counter for 2 days.
Strain and bottle the shrub:
After 2 days, strain the solids through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth set over a medium bowl. Allow at least 10 minutes for the liquid to strain out; do not press on the solids in the strainer. Discard the solids.
Bottle the liquid in a glass container and refrigerate. The shrub will keep up to 2 months in the refrigerator.
Mix into drinks:
To make the drink, combine 1 ounce of shrub with 2-3 ounces of sparkling water over ice in a highball glass. Garnish with cranberries if desired.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 0g||0%|
|Saturated Fat 0g||0%|
|Total Carbohydrate 11g||4%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||3%|
|Total Sugars 9g|
|Vitamin C 4mg||22%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|