Sensational shrubs: Enjoy the bounty of the garden in a cocktail

I’m sure that a lot of you are enjoying the bounties of your gardens these day — at least that’s what my Instagram would make me believe. But I’m not much of a gardener. I am growing some herbs in the backyard and have a succulent garden that is doing surprisingly well.

But I figured when it comes to produce, I’ll just leave it to the experts. Enter Grinnell Heritage Farm. This summer, we’re part of its community supported agriculture, or CSA. You pay for a share upfront in the spring, and you get a box of veggies every week in the summer.

At this point, our house is overflowing with cucumbers, garlic, onions, zucchinis, you name it. And all of it was grown in Poweshiek County. There are tons of these programs in the area. If you’ve never participated in one before, I would highly encourage it.

We’re trying to be creative with meals, figuring out ways to incorporate the veggies in ways that don’t just involve putting them in a salad or roasting them in the oven (though, those are great options, too.) Then I had a great idea — what better way to use up some of the produce than by putting it into cocktails?

There are so many fun ways to infuse flavor into mixed drinks: shrubs, syrups and pickling are a great place to start. All you need are some Mason jars and other household ingredients, such as vinegar and sugar, and a little patience.

A shrub is a refreshing vinegar-based drink, which doesn’t seem possible, right? I muddled some cucumbers and mint, let it sit in the vinegar and sugar for a few days, and added it to some gin. Voila, a delicious summer cocktail.

There’s a little tradition in my friend group — and by little tradition, I really mean boarder-line obsession — of watching “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette” on Monday nights. It involves wine, a fantasy-footballesque draft lineup and a trophy.


I used them as my guinea pigs to ensure that my Sweet Pea Vodkas and Cucumber-Elderflower Gin Cocktails were up to par.

They were all gone by the time Becca gave out her final rose.


Cucumber Mint Shrub

1 cup (6 ounces) finely diced cucumbers

2 tablespoons honey

5 sprigs fresh mint

3/4 cup rice wine vinegar

In small mixing bowl, muddle cucumbers, honey and mint until honey is well blended and herbs are bruised.

Add vinegar and transfer mixture to sterilized glass jar.

Allow mixture to rest in refrigerator for two days, then strain through a fine mesh sieve.

Discard leftover cucumbers and mint.


Sweet Pea Syrup

1 cup sugar

1 cup peas, chopped

1 cup water

Chop peas into pieces.

Add sugar and water to saucepan.

Add chopped peas.

Bring water to a boil.

Allow to boil for a minute, remove from heat.

Allow peas to steep for 30 minutes.

Strain and discard peas, retaining syrup.


Bloody Mary Green Beans

Green beans

1 cup water

1/2 cup tomato juice

1/3 cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons prepared horseradish

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

2 garlic cloves, crushed

Pack green beans in a heatproof 1-quart glass jar. In medium saucepan, combine allremaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Pour brine over green beans and let cool completely, then seal jar and refrigerate for at least2 hours before serving.

Source: Food and Wine

Spicy Pickles

1 cup (or handful) of fresh dill sprigs

2 garlic cloves chopped

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 cup chopped onion

3 cups thinly sliced small cucumbers

1 1/2 cups water

3/4 cup white vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar (or honey)

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Place dill, garlic, red pepper flakes and onion in a large Mason jar. Fill jar to top with cucumbers.

Meanwhile, place the water, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper in small saucepan over high heat. Whisk until mixture comes to a boil. Pour hot liquid over cucumbers. Cool slightly, then place top on jar and refrigerate overnight.


Sweet Pea Martini

Combine 1 ounce of sweet pea simple syrup with 2 ounces of vodka. Top with seltzer water and garnish with lime.

Cucumber Elderflower Gin and Tonic

Combine 1 ounce

Cucumber Mint shrub with

2 ounces of gin and

1 ounce of Elderflower Liqueur. Top with tonic water and garnish with cucumber.

Bloody Marys


Combine 2 ounces of vodka with tomato juice, pickle juice, a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, cayenne pepper and Old Bay Seasoning. Garnish with pickles and green beans.

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