I first wrote about shrubs, the colonial-era method of preserving fruits and vegetables as drinking vinegars, two years ago. The idea of drinking vinegar in a cocktail or soda sounded a little bit absurd at first — it seemed like a neo-hippie fashion — but shrubs are a delightful way to preserve the season. And it's a trend that seems to have some legs.
Sarah Walsh, owner of Caffe d'Amore Catering in the Pittsburgh Public Market, agrees. She became a fan of the drink when her friend Shauna Frantz showed her how easy it was to make a shrub. "The confidence that comes from making things yourself is really empowering," she says.
From there, Walsh moved on to experimenting with different fruits, ratios and booze combinations. Walsh is currently experimenting with making her own vinegars. Over the course of her studies, she says, "I started to have a lot of conversations with other people who were really interesting in making and using shrubs."
So she decided to organize a "Shrubdown" which will take place Sun., Aug. 24, at Wigle Whiskey. Bartenders and shrub enthusiasts from Butterjoint, The Livermore, 1947 Tavern, Blackberry Meadows Farm and Wild Purveyors will prepare shrub sodas and cocktails to kickstart an autumn of shrubmaking. "I want to promote this as a food-preservation method that people can easily do at home," Walsh says.
Walsh wants people to know that food preservation need not be a dowdy, dull thing to do. "It can be about fun, conversations and community. Let's carve out some public space for that."
Of course, it helps that one of the best ways to use a shrub is to make a cocktail — and cocktails certainly have a way of making things more enjoyable. Still, at least for Walsh, it's really about what you and your friends are bringing to the table.
"I just took a personality test and it said my sin is gluttony of fun," she says. "That really encapsulates it."