Strawberry Balsamic Shrubs

Strawberry Balsamic Shrubs // The Pancake Princess

Again, a disclaimer: I am in no way a mixologist, I consider most liquors to taste like a ghastly burning liquid version of poop and one of my preferred drinks (read: lesser of the evils) is a long island iced tea, which should give you some idea of my discerning palate and refined taste. (See also: frozen margaritas, amaretto sours, Pimm’s cups, and G&Ts when I’m trying to be socially respectable.)

Strawberry Balsamic Shrubs // The Pancake PrincessStrawberry Balsamic Shrubs // The Pancake PrincessStrawberry Balsamic Shrubs // The Pancake PrincessBut shrubs are new territory. Earlier this summer, I had a really delicious non-alcoholic shrub at a restaurant and spent weeks thinking about it before realizing that my first introduction to shrubs had really come years ago, when my aunt had proffered something involving alcohol and something out of a mason jar, which I had politely declined.

Jokes on me, because shrubs (unattractively also known as “drinking vinegars”) are basically a fruit-infused acidic substance that can be added to any drink, alcoholic or not, to amp up flavor–let me repeat: fruit and acid. And sugar. Three of my favorite things, especially when it comes to drinks (dranks).

Strawberry Balsamic Shrubs // The Pancake Princess

Serendipitously, the lovely Sherrie and Renee decided to host a virtual #drinkthesummer party right around the time a handful of strawberries were going soft and squishy on me, so my first attempt at a shrub demanded the always-alluring combination of strawberries and balsamic vinegar. When thinned with a good splash of sparkling water, a squeeze of lime (plus a half-hearted attempt at muddling basil…) and a pour of gin, I thought these turned out quite nicely–fizzy, fruity, sweet, and a little sour, just how I like. (Though next time, I’d go lighter on the sugar since balsamic vinegar is already fairly sweet, in order to help bring out the acid.)

While some recipes suggest cooking the fruit, sugar and vinegar together, Serious Eats advocates a cold-processed shrub for better flavor, so that’s what I did. It’s a super easy process, even for a drink noob like me, so I highly recommend trying this, if tangy/sour/acidic drinks are your thing! Making a shrub is the perfect way to elevate your drink game, use up overripe or slightly imperfect fruit, impress your friends, and drink delicious drinks. Just make sure you leave a couple of days from your start time to desired drinking time–a.k.a a Wednesday might be the perfect time to start 😉

Strawberry Balsamic Shrubs

Yield: ~1/2 cup shrub syrup


  • For the shrub:
  • 1/2 cup strawberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar (reduce to 2 tablespoons for a less sweet shrub)
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar (you can also try a mix of balsamic and a lighter vinegar, like apple cider or champagne)

  • For the cocktails:
  • Gin
  • Sparkling water
  • Lime
  • Fresh basil (optional)


Combine the strawberries and sugar; mash with a fork until well-combined. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Once a syrupy liquid has accumulated, strain through a fine mesh sieve (reserve the solids to use over yogurt or on toast). Stir the vinegar into the syrup and refrigerate for several hours (ideally a day or more), stirring occasionally to help dissolve the sugar.

To assemble the shrub cocktails, muddle a few leaves of basil in the bottom of a glass, if using. Remove basil leaves and add 1-2 oz gin, 1 oz shrub syrup, 1/2 cup sparkling water, a squeeze of lime and stir. Adjust components to taste.

For mind-blowing inspiration from truly talented folks with REAL drink expertise, check out the rest of these lovely #drinkthesummer party participants!
Hummingbird High | Thyme Lemonade
Brooklyn Supper | Bloody Maria Cocktails
Cake Over Steak | Blackberry Bourbon Cocktail
Loves Food, Loves to Eat | Coconut Nectarine White Wine Spritzers
Dunk & Crumble | Ginger Peach Whiskey Smash
my name is yeh | Nutella Egg Cream
Edible Perspective | Rosé Slushies
Vegetarian ‘Ventures | Sparkling Peppered Plum Blush
Appeasing a Food Geek | Sugar Plum Margarita
Hungry Girl por Vida | Peanut Butter and Berry Smoothie
The Clever Carrot | 5 Minute White Peach Margaritas
Cookie and Kate | Watermelon White Sangria
Chocolate + Marrow | Raspberry Thyme Smash
The Bojon Gourmet | Basil Pluot Pimm’s Cup
what’s cooking good looking | Watermelon Basil Colada
i am a food blog | Thyme Gin and Tonics
Fix, Feast, Flair | Berry Peachy Kentucky Mules
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28 thoughts on “Strawberry Balsamic Shrubs

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  4. Kathryn @ The Scratch Artist

    You completely descried my experience with most liquor – “like a ghastly burning liquid version of poop.” Genius! Also, because of this genius phrase I took your palate seriously and now I have to try a shrub! The name of your blog tells me everything I need to know about the wonderful space you’ve created here. So happy I had the chance to find you through #drinkthesummer.

  5. Jayme Henderson

    Erika, I am just now getting around to checking out all of the other recipes, and I’m definitely down with team shrub. 😉 I make my shrubs with mostly apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar, but I haven’t ventured into the balsamic vinegar territory, even though I know the combo of strawberry and balsamic is classic. I’m so happy you’ve found a place for shrubs in your life. They are super easy to make. …and kudos for you for being able to sip a Long Island Iced Tea! I’d be on the floor asleep or out on the dance floor doing something I’d regret! lol

  6. Cindy

    I had my first shrubs last year when I was pregnant with my son…everytime I went out for drinks with friends (like, twice) the bartender would offer me a shrub. SO GOOD. I love this combo, there is no better pairing than strawberry balsamic!

    1. erika Post author

      Hahaha I love that–your going out for drinks with friends while pregnant is the equivalent of me drinking beer (like, twice a year). YAY SHRUBS! They are such a good non-alcoholic (or alcoholic) drink right? They make you feel fancy no matter what! Thanks for the kind words, lady! <33

    1. erika Post author

      Right?! I had such a good strawberry balsamic ice cream in Portland…going to have to work on a dairy-free version for the both of us now! 😉

  7. Em

    I love sour or tangy drinks (hello, sour beer…) so a sour cocktail is right up my alley! And I’ve not yet tried my hand at making a shrub yet, but I totally feel ya on the strawberries that need to be used, like, yesterday situation, so that might just change here rather quickly! Cheers, Erika!

    1. erika Post author

      Oooh you got any sour beer recommendations you could toss my way? I need to work on my beer love game. And go get you a shrub, lovely lady! <33

  8. Brooke @ Chocolate + Marrow

    I am definitely not a mixologist either, Erika! I can barely make a margarita LOL. But I’ve been trying to learn a bit more and #drinkthesummer is proving to be a pretty good crash course in cocktail making. Cheers to these lovely little shrubs!

    1. erika Post author

      So spot on! This WAS a fantastic crash course in cocktail making! Next up on my list…making an actually good margarita (also something I have yet to master)…alongside your delicious raspberry thyme drank!

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  10. Kelsey @ Appeasing a Food Geek

    I have to admit that I have never heard of shrubs until I saw your lovely post! I hope that doesn’t take my food blogger card away…
    I can’t wait to give this recipe a try (especially because I loooove gin drinks), and I’m so happy to have found your blog! :)

    1. erika Post author

      Not at all! Shrubs are fairly new in my realm as well. And I just ranted and raved about how I hate alcohol so if anything, MY blogger card should be revoked…

      Thanks so much for the lovely comment, Kelsey! Can’t wait to read more from you <33

  11. Sara @ Cake Over Steak

    I recently got a sampler pack of summer shrubs from the Food52 shop, and I’ve been enjoying mixing those with some plain old club soda for a weeknight spritzer situation. Makes me feel fancy, like I’m drinking a cocktail, but without the alcohol. I still need to play with them in some homemade cocktails. This one sounds awesome with the strawberry, basil, gin, etc. We need to work on your liquor love, girl! I think you just need to find the right drink and the love will soon follow. 😉

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  13. Nora (A Clean Bake)

    Ok hi, I had no idea what I was missing by ignoring shrubs, so thank GOODNESS you have set me straight. I am a similarly weeny drinker as you are (I mean that in the best way possible – Pimms Cups 4eva!) but I love strong, confident flavors so I think I need to hop on this shrub bandwagon ASAP.

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