Have you ever heard of a "shrub" (as in drink, not bush)? It's basically a vinegar-based fruity cordial or soda. The acidity of the vinegar provides tang and intensifies the flavor of the fruit in much the same way that the acidity of lemons balances the sugar in lemonade, and makes lemonade taste so lemony.
Vinegar allows you to make a soda with fruit, without it being cloyingly sweet.
With this cucumber mint soda, first you make a simple syrup with water, sugar, and vinegar. Then you infuse the vinegar simple syrup with fresh mint leaves. To make the soda, you pour the syrup over ice and chopped cucumber and add seltzer water. Easy!
If you are not familiar with shrubs, the whole vinegar concept can seem a bit weird. But believe me, it works!
I made a batch of this the other day for some friends and they've all been begging for the recipe. It's wonderfully refreshing on a hot summer day.
Many thanks to Payam Fardanesh of Silk Road Soda for introducing me to the whole concept of vinegar-based sodas, and in particular this cucumber mint combo. It's my favorite flavor of all of his sodas, and is a classic Persian drink.
This particular recipe is adapted from a recipe for Sekanjebeen, a mint vinegar syrup, from the Persian cookbook Pomegranates and Roses, by Ariana Bundy.
Cucumber Mint "Shrub" Soda
- 4 cups water
- 1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1-1/3 cup white wine vinegar (can substitute with plain white vinegar)
- A handful of mint leaves
- 1 cucumber, peeled if the peels are thick, chopped
- Seltzer water
Boil water and sugar:
Put 4 cups of water and sugar into a saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil and boil uncovered for 10 minutes.
Add white vinegar, boil and reduce:
Add white vinegar and boil uncovered for 15 more minutes, until the liquid has reduced to a couple of cups. (Now you have vinegar simple syrup.)
Add mint leaves:
Stir in the mint leaves and boil for a minute more. Remove from heat and let cool for at least 30 minutes.
Strain mint leaves, and chill syrup:
Strain out the mint leaves and pour the vinegar simple syrup into a jar. Chill until ready to use.
Mix with cucumber, ice, and soda water:
Fill a glass with ice cubes and a several pieces of cucumber. Add the syrup and soda water in about a 1:3 ratio, syrup to water, or whatever works for you to achieve the level of intensity you want for your soda. Stir with a spoon.
Serve immediately, garnished with a sprig of mint, if you'd like.