For July 4th, serve a libation enjoyed by George Washington
Ben Franklin too. And no doubt many of our other founding fathers. That’s because shrubs – fruit preserved in a syrup of sugar and vinegar – were extremely popular in both America and Britain in those days.
Shrub syrup is even better if you add some strong spirits to the mix. But maybe you guessed that already.
You can use almost any booze, but we’re using rum. It was by far the most popular spirit in America around the time of the Revolutionary War. And the flavor of rum blends perfectly with shrub syrup.
Ready to fuel your patriotic fervor?
Recipe: Rum Shrub Cocktail
To make a Rum Shrub Cocktail, you’ll need some Homemade Shrub Syrup (we’re using blackberries in ours, but any berry or fruit will work), plus dark or amber rum, and soda water or seltzer. If you don’t feel like making your own shrub syrup, you can buy commercial versions – search the interwebs and you’ll find it.
If you don’t favor rum, you can use bourbon, cognac or brandy, vodka, tequila – almost any booze you can think of. We haven’t tried all the possible combos, but we’ve liked every one we’ve sampled so far.
We first learned about rum shrubs in an article written by Eric Felten for the Wall Street Journal back in 2006. We like his recipe, so that’s what we use.
This drink takes about 5 minutes to prepare, and serves 1.
- 2 ounces dark or amber rum
- 1 ounce blackberry or raspberry shrub syrup (or to taste; see Notes)
- soda or seltzer water (enough to fill the glass – about 4 ounces; may substitute ginger ale)
- garnish of orange wheel or twist (optional)
- Fill a tall (Collins) glass with ice. Add the rum and shrub syrup. Fill the glass with soda or seltzer water.
- Add straws, and stir to combine the ingredients. Garnish with an orange wheel or twist, if desired, and serve.
- We think an ounce of shrub syrup is about the right amount in this drink, but you may wish to add a bit more or less.
- If you prefer, you can reduce the amount of rum to 1½ ounces. We often do when we’re having more than one of these.
- Some people like to add ½ ounce or so of lemon juice. This tastes a bit unbalanced to us, but you may like it. It’s worth experimenting.
- Back in colonial America, rum was pretty raw stuff. Rum is made from sugarcane byproducts, and in those days it wasn’t refined to any great degree. Today’s rum is much higher quality – and much tamer.
- We haven’t tried Demerara rum in this cocktail, but think its bold, smoky flavor would work well. BTW, this rum is named after the Demerara region of Guyana, where it’s made.
- Back in the day, shrub drinks often were made in bulk, almost like a punch. And they sometimes were bottled and sold as a beverage.
- Felten reminds us that in William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, George Osborne (a key character) is sent by a school bully “to run a quarter of a mile; to purchase a pint of rum-shrub on credit.” Osborne accidentally breaks the bottle as he reenters the school playground, and the bully proceeds to thwack Osborne with a cricket stump. Osborne is saved by William Dobbin (a somewhat heroic figure, even though Thackeray called the book “a novel without a hero”), and the two become steadfast friends.
- There was no sparkling (soda) water back in colonial America, so shrub drinks usually were mixed with still (tap) water. You can make them that way if you prefer, although we like fizzy water.
- BTW, recipes for shrubs have been found in Ben Franklin’s papers and in a book that Martha Washington owned.
We Hold these Truths to be Self-Evident
“Yummy,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Our founding fathers knew how to make a spirited drink.”
“Agreed,” I said, raising my glass. “Though I regret that I have but one shrub to drink for my country.”
“These are the dregs that try men’s souls,” said Mrs K R, eyeing her fast-diminishing shrub.
“No worries, we have more where that came from,” I said. “I have not yet begun to mix!”
“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of cocktails,” said Mrs K R. “Is this a great country or what?”
Happy Independence Day, everyone!
You may also enjoy reading about:
Berry Shrub and Shrub Syrup
Betsy Ross Cocktail
Cape Codder Cocktail
Gin and Tonic
Gin Rickey Cocktail
Or check out the index for more
I love your sense of humor (and use of modified historic quotes). This was very educational, and I like the historical nature of the cocktail. Perfect, as you suggested, for the 4th. We might stick to the non alcoholic version, though.
Love shrub cocktails, but never thought to make them with rum. I'll have to give this a try. Thanks for the suggestion.
Hi Patty, isn't this a nice cocktail? And it's equally good without the booze! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pamela, rum is wonderful in shrub cocktails -- really an interesting flavor. I think you'll like! Thanks for the comment.
Had no idea several of the found fathers of this country loved shrubs. This looks perfect for the 4th of July!
Ahh, yes, I'll take one (or maybe two) of these and sit on the deck and enjoy life!
A very tasty and satisfying drink. I like the idea that the shrub was one of Ben Franklin's and the founding fathers would have enjoyed this one as well. Like the Shrub idea...Even though I am a drinker I would sip this one. Always wonderful information and I love the banter between Mrs. K Riffs and yourself. Thank you for sharing this info and have a safe and fun July 4th weekend..
Hi Denise, shrubs are an old drink! They fell out of favor for awhile, but thank goodness they're coming back -- they're really good! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Laura, sounds like a good life! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Dottie, this is good without the booze. Although we prefer it with! Thanks for the comment.
Two of those please :)
Never tried Rum Shrub Cocktail but certainly looks delish
I love the sound of these shrubs but haven't tried one yet. This rum version may be the one for me. My daughter lives in a neighborhood that was once part of George Washington's boyhood home (Ferry Farm). We should drink one for ole George! If they posted your photos in a bar somewhere - they would sell more drinks - they are gorgeous!
Look at that tall "dark" and handsome ;) I bet a lot of single ladies are going to want this at the 4th of July BBQ they go to! LOL!
This is so amazing and fantastic recipe! Blackberries and rum sound like the perfect pair to me!
Hi Raymund, this really is delish! Definitely worth a try. Or two. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Tricia, we should license photos to bars! :-) Definitely try one of these -- a really good drink. Thanks for the comment.
Hi GiGi, LOL! Always love your take on things. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Rahul, rum really works so nicely in this -- great combo of flavors. Thanks for the comment.
I do favor rum! And, this is an excellent way to show patriotism. I like the modern version with sparkling water rather than still. Happy 4th of July!
Hi Lisa, rum has such a nice flavor, don't you think? And I definitely prefer this with sparkling water. Happy 4th, and thanks for the comment.
This has been a fun series. Huzzah! for shrubs!
I wish you were my neighbor. I'd make you be friends with me ... especially on Cocktail day. :)
I can't wait to try this! 4th of July, here I come!
One example of a good reason for history to repeat itself.
best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com
I'm so proud of GW! I recently read the book '1776' and the author tells of how he and his troops were able to chase the British away from Boston Harbor by moving the canons onto Dorchester Heights, overlooking Boston. To celebrate, I will make your cocktail on July 4th!
Hi Lydia, Huzzah! indeed. :-) And we've really enjoyed playing with shrubs this month! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Lea Ann, that's be fun! And we always seem to have friends on cocktail day. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Jeff, this is a good one! You'll like. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Mae, yup, repeating history can be fun. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Fran, I read that book too, and really enjoyed it. And the saga of the canons was really interesting, I thought. Enjoy this on the 4th, and thanks for the comment.
Such a gorgeous cocktail---and I love its historical connections! Perfect for our holiday weekend :)
Hi Liz, isn't it pretty? And you're right -- this is indeed perfect for this weekend. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This is great! I have your strawberry shrub sitting in the fridge right now using the cold process. I used balsamic because I didn't have cider vinegar, so thanks for the alternatives. It should be ready Friday, so great timing with this drink for the 4th weekend! Thanks John!
Hi MJ, balsamic and strawberries is a nice combo. Do try raspberries or blackberries with cider vinegar sometime too -- really good. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This sounds delicious, what a lovely way to use strawberries.
As soon as I get back home I am making your shrub and the drink. In the meantime "Prost" and have a wonderful 4th of July.
Hi Caroline, this is such a fun drink! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Gerlinde, Prost! Thanks for the comment.
Apropos and red too! GREG
Your summer drink posts are so inspiring! Even a small amount of berries or stone fruit can be made into something fantastic! Happy summer John.
Hi Greg, gotta have something red for the 4th! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Deb, we've been loving shrubs around here! So much you can do with them. Thanks for the comment.
What a beautiful color this drink of yours...I love the berry shrub...and yes, this would be perfect for the July 4th!
Have a wonderful holiday John :)
Oh wow! What a fantastic and refreshing looking cocktail. Shrub cocktail with rum is a genius idea.
Oh this drink looks so refreshing John, love the color!!
Hi Juliana, isn't this pretty? Berries have such rich color! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Anu, this is such a fun drink -- really good! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Cheri, this is truly refreshing. And the color is great, isn't it? Thanks for the comment.
What a fun sip for the holidays. I like how it's cut with seltzer, too, so it's refreshing and not too boozy when you're out in the sun all day.
Hi Carolyn, isn't this nice? And you're right that it isn't too boozy -- so it's perfect for the HOT weather we've been having! Thanks for the comment.
That ravishing red drink truly sounds like a soul-soother! Yes, will definitely give it a try.....without the boozy touch though :)
Mindblowing, eye-popping photography. I can stare at that pretty glass for hours with pleasure.
Hi Nusrat, it really is a soul-soother! And it's good without the booze (although we like it with!). Thanks for the comment.
Wow this color is amazing! What a fierce cocktail :)
Hi Kristi, isn't the color nice? So is the flavor! Thanks for the comment.
What a great shrub! Love the color, so patriotic! And how fun to have a drink that our great patriots loved! Great choice!
Hi Abbe, fun drink, huh? And tastes SO good. :-) Thanks for the comment.
A perfect libation for the Fourth. Have a good one!
Hi Rosemary, we will! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Gorgeous drink. Happy Independence Day to you, too!
Hi Beth, isn't this nice? Thanks for the 4th wishes, and hope you had a good Canada Day. And thanks for the comment.
Great drink and the colour is perfect for the holiday. Happy 4th to you and the Mrs. :)
Hi Robyn, this really is a wonderful drink -- so full of flavor! Thanks for the comment.
Happy 4th! It's 4th here in Sydney, but sadly my American friends based in Sydney chose not to host a 4th July party.... so I can't make them this drink! :( Have a wonderful celebration.
Another beautiful cocktail, John! Oh how I wish you and Mrs. K.R. were my neighbors! I'd be over every Wednesday like clock work just to see what you've made! I really love rum drinks, especially in the summer. And this looks like the perfect way to celebrate the 4th! Hope you both are having a wonderful weekend! :)
If I lived in your city I would want to be your neighbor. :) Someone just gifted me with little bottles of booze. I must be able to make these with one of them.
Have a happy 4th.
Hi Amanda, tell them it's their patriotic duty to have a party! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Anne, our drinks are pretty popular! :-) And totally agree about rum drinks. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Madonna, it'd be fun having you as our neighbor! And you can make this drink with all sorts of booze -- you can experiment. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I'm loving the color of this cocktail and it's perfect for the 4th of July.
Hi Peachy, this is really pretty, isn't it? And tastes really good, too! Thanks for the comment.
Another great shrub cocktail recipe. Hope you had a great 4th!
The color is just amazing and what a lovely post. Thank you so much for sharing this. Bookmarked!
Hi Evelyne, we did! And enjoyed some of these. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Kushi, isn't this a nice drink? Love its looks! Thanks for the comment.
We make flavored simple syrups all the time to assist us in making great cocktails. But, this idea is crazy good! Love it! Thanks for sharing.
Hope you had a wonderful 4th of July!
Would have been perfect for the 4th. :D
Hi Velva, shrub syrup makes wonderful cocktails! So worth a try. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Made this last night with the strawberry balsamic shrub and Jamaicam rum. Delicious! Thanks John! Raspberry and cider vinegar shrub next. 😉
Hi MJ, glad you liked it! Shrubs are good. :-)
Hi Lux, it's perfect for any time!:-) Thanks for the comment.
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