In the world of cocktails, shrubs, also known as drinking vinegars, can be enjoyed straight up or in a cocktail or nonalcoholic drink. They’re on-trend, but they have a long history, going back in time at least to colonial America.
Five years ago, Alex Zweber, founder, CEO and “everything Sharab Shrubs,” told a liquor rep for Surdyk’s wine bar, which he still manages, that one of the shrubs the rep was selling needed improvement. “So he challenged me to create a better shrub, and then when I did, he challenged me to start a company,” says Zweber. He met the challenge, and in February 2017, Sharab Shrubs opened for business.
Sharab sells their products to distilleries, restaurants and bars as well as to liquor stores and online. The shrubs are also sold at Rosedale Center’s Rose & Loon: A Midwest Maker’s Market.
Making shrubs is a relatively simple process. “Shrubs are made by cold press fermentation. We take fruit and sugar and allow it to ferment, then add whatever vinegar we see fit to use for that fruit,” says Zweber.
Like a proud father, Zweber says he loves all his shrubs, but he’s proudest of the strawberry. “This strawberry pops so brightly—it’s like liquid jam. When I mix it with a little soda water it reminds me of making jam or pie with grandma. It makes me smile—it’s like a hug from summer,” he says.
Zweber will be at the Bauhaus Made by Hands market November 30, the Bad Weather Brewing Holiday Market on December 8 and the Tattersall Holiday Market on December 14.
The Twisted Shrub
Scott Dillon and his wife K.C. Danzansky were tired of paying $13 to $15 for cocktails at restaurants and bars. They wanted to learn to make delicious cocktails at home, so they signed up for a class at Parlour Bar in the North Loop.
The class was all about shrubs—something that neither had ever heard of. “The bartender explained it was a simple concoction of vinegars, sugars and fruits, resulting in a tart, super-acidic mixer that makes really cool cocktails. I had my first sip of a shrub and I was instantly hooked—I fell in love,” says Dillon.
The timing of Dillon’s love affair with shrubs was ideal—he had worked for General Mills for 20 years and had recently parted ways with the company.
“I was looking for my next adventure and it was an epiphany moment—I was going to start a food company making shrubs,” he says. Now also almost 4 years later, The Twisted Shrub has a line of shrubs and a line of apple vinegar shots.
Dillon says “We want to help people make easy, fun healthy cocktails. We’re trying to create bartending heroes at home.”
Find The Twisted Shrub’s products at local liquor stores including Surdyk’s and France 44, Lakewinds and the Wedge co-ops and on Amazon.