So, this is clearly a bit of departure from my usual posts. But! I really, really like this spiced blood orange shrub mix, and the recipe exists on some bitty scrap of paper that I tore out of an unidentifiable magazine at some point in the past… so I want to make sure I can access it again! And some of you might also be fans of shrubs, so this is a win-win.
What is a shrub, you ask? Well, it’s essentially simple syrup mixed with apple cider vinegar. You add it to seltzer water for a fizzy, tangy drinking experience. I really like them, but I also quite like vinegar, and shrubs are certainly not for everyone. (And, perhaps unsurprisingly given how hipster these might sound to the unfamiliar, they’re pretty popular in Portland).
I like this spiced blood orange shrub mix both because I like blood oranges in general, and it’s a fairly mild shrub that can be made stronger or milder as you prefer. So it would probably be a good introduction to the drink if you’re feeling adventurous. You can adjust levels of vinegar and ease yourself into it (if you’re skeptical, start with ¼ cup apple cider vinegar and work up). It’s also not overly sweet, which is nice.
This falls more in the realm of “cooking,” as far as I’m concerned, since amounts do not need to be precise. The recipe below is mostly just a general outline, and you can tweak it as you see fit based on flavor preferences or what you have on hand.
The spicing is more on the subtle side, which lets the orange shine – and I like it that way. You can certainly up the spice levels and when blood orange is out of season, you can make something approximate with regular oranges plus a lemon. But it’s blood orange season right now! And the mix will last a month or so in the fridge, so I’m planning to make a fair bit before blood oranges go away for another year.
Ingredients are listed in the order they appear in the recipe and anything that requires prep is in bold. Ingredients are bolded in the directions when you first encounter them, and the quantity required is included. Time estimates are bolded and italicized. I also include notes about any special equipment you’ll need.
Spiced Blood Orange Shrub Mix
Required equipment: a fine-mesh sieve, ideally a microplane zester (but you can get away without one). A small saucepan.
Note: If blood oranges are out of season, you can use three regular oranges and a lemon to get a somewhat similar flavor profile. It just won’t be such a pretty color!
- 4-5 medium-sized blood oranges (enough for about 1¼ to 1½ cups juice)
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
- 1 cinnamon stick (should be around 3-inches)
- 6 whole cloves
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ⅓ to ½ cup apple cider vinegar (to taste)
Prep work: peel and chop the ginger.
With a microplane zester (highly recommend getting one if you don’t have one), zest two of the blood oranges. This should give you roughly 2 tablespoons of zest, but it’s not precise. If you don’t have a zester, you can peel slices of the zest with a vegetable peeler, just try to leave as much as you can of the white pith behind.
Place the zest in a small saucepan and add 1 cup water.
In a separate container (i.e. not the saucepan), juice the 4-5 oranges (both the zested ones and those that are still intact), and strain the juice through a fine-mesh sieve and discard the pulp and seeds. You should have around 1¼ to 1½ cups juice (this is all to taste, so don’t fret).
Add the 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, cinnamon stick, 6 whole cloves, and ½ cup granulated sugar to the saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved and liquid is reduced by about half (10-15 minutes).
Let the syrup cool somewhat, then strain it through a fine-mesh sieve into a large measuring cup (at least 2-cup size, but 4-cup is great). Discard the strained-out spices. Add the blood orange juice and ⅓ to ½ cup apple cider vinegar, and stir to combine. Give it a taste and add more vinegar if desired – it should be a nice balance of sweet and sour, but it’s down to personal preference (I tend to like more vinegar over less).
Depending on where you started juice-wise and how much you reduced the sugar water, you’ll have a little over 2 cups of the shrub mix in the end. This will make 12-16 servings, again depending on taste.
For serving, pour 2-3 tablespoons of shrub mix into a glass and add plain seltzer water to taste. (I use pint glasses, so it’s probably 2oz shrub mix to like 12-13 oz seltzer.)
Shrub mix will keep for up to a month in the fridge.