Cranberry Shrub

Cranberry shrub with sparkling water and rosemary sprigs

I made my first shrub five years ago by way of a solid Sunset magazine recipe. (This was back when they used to include a lot of recipes in each issue and a subscription seemed worthwhile.) Shrubs are at least a few hundred years old and refer to a fruit syrup sweetened with sugar and cooked with vinegar to allow for longer term storage. When combined with water or alcohol, shrubs make a refreshing and tangy beverage.

Cranberries provide such a lovely color and bright flavor, but I’ve found this recipe works equally well with other berries, such as strawberries or blackberries. The vinegar is noticeable, but not overwhelming. You could also incorporate herbs or spices of your choosing.

The syrup can be stored in the fridge and then mixed with sparkling water or alcohol. It’s very easy, quick, and doesn’t require any special equipment. The syrup lasts for up to 3 months in the fridge. The recipe below makes around 24 ounces, so you could easily gift some small bottles if you like.

Cranberries are just starting to burst


  • 12 oz. fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 cups water


  1. Bring all of the ingredients to a simmer in a mid-size or large pot over medium heat. Stir occasionally until cranberries start to burst.
  2. Reduce heat to low and cook another 5 – 10 mins.
  3. Strain mixture to remove seeds, pulp, and skin. I don’t press the fruit aggressively through the sieve, but I also don’t mind if there’s small bits of pulp in the syrup.
  4. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving, and then store for up to 3 months in the refrigerator.
  5. To serve, pour a few tablespoons into a glass, and then top with sparkling water or alcohol. Stir and taste. Add more syrup or beverage to taste.
Cranberry shrub syrup