What's a Shrub?

Two of our first limited edition cocktail kits with the ace bar at Comorin hinge on the magic of a shrub.

salted pomegranate shrub

Simply put, shrubs are ‘drinking vinegars’.

A fruity or sweetened vinegar syrup is used as a base for a cocktail or soft drink. Top the syrup with liquor or soda and it’s ready.

They were a rage in colonial America and, like anything from another era, have been back in style at cocktail bars over the past decade.

While the word shrub isn’t used to describe these drinks in India, the concept seems familiar. You can play an etymological word game to guess why. Trust your instincts and you won’t be wrong.

Try connecting these two words:

Shrub : Sharab

Here’s (very roughly) how they meet over time.

Sharaba, in Arabic, means to drink, and sharab means beverage. In farsi, sharab means wine. (In India, it’s been shorthand for any alcohol as long as we know.)

In the 17th and 18th century Middle East, syrups made of fruit, rose (ancestors of Roohafza!), or vinegar were diluted to make cooling drinks known as sharbats.

They were popular and spread east to India, where we know both sharbats and sharab.

They also spread west, to Europe and America where new identities were forged.

We got sherbert (England) and sherbet (America). We also got sorbet (another sweetened cooler). And the word syrup.

The Americans eventually chopped the word sherbet to shrub around the time colonial American drinking vinegars emerged.

Not all sharbats or sherbets have vinegar but it’s an essential feature of shrubs. 

Mixologist Varun Sharma of Comorin

Mixologist Varun Sharma at the Comorin bar.

None of that word play will prepare you for Comorin’s salted pomegrante shrub.

It’s darkly cloudy, sour, salty, and fruity at the same time. You can sip it to brood or to snap back to life.

We just had to talk to Comorin’s beverage manager, Varun Sharma, about it. Here’s an excerpt:

Makery Staff: What drinks have you built around the salted pomegranate shrub?

Varun: There’s two, and you can get both versions in the Comorin & Makery collection. One is simply a salted pomegranate shrub topped with club soda and garnished with a betel leaf. It’s non-alcoholic. The other we call a Pickled Pom Whiskey and it’s the top seller at Comorin. You infuse bourbon in a mix of spices and combine it with the salted pomegranate shrub. It’s equally great shaken or stirred, though I prefer the shaken version.

Makery Staff: What’s actually in the shrub?

Varun: Pomegranate juice, pomegranate molasses, cloves, black salt, vinegar.

Makery Staff: What makes the Pickled Pom Whiskey work so well?

Varun: The woody notes in bourbon play well with the umami flavour of the shrub.

Makery Staff: What other shrubs have you made or are you working on?

Varun: Pineapple, cherry, strawberry. Anything tropical. Shrubs are a good way to preserve seasonal fruit.