Toasting Kleopatra

Drink Your Vinegar

Drinking vinegars — also called shrub syrups – have been around for centuries.

In the ancient Middle East shrub syrups (called sharāb) were created as a means to purify water through the addition of vinegar.

Vinegar is the base for all shrub syrups. Any vinegar containing at least five percent acetic acid may be used: try white, champagne, red wine, white wine, apple cider or balsamic vinegars. You can also experiment with coconut, cane, date, raisin, or rice vinegar.

Any fruit can be used to make shrub syrups — but you’ll want to be sure it pairs well with the vinegar you select.  Fresh strawberries and balsamic vinegar are a popular match, for example, or blueberries and apple cider vinegar. Wine vinegars go well with stone fruit or apples, and don’t forget to try citrus fruits.

An aromatic herb or spice is often added to shrub syrups. Basil, rosemary, lemon verbena, and black or pink peppercorns are popular selections to put that special finish on your drinking vinegar. Here is a basic cold process method for making a shrub syrup:

  • 3 cups fresh fruit, peeled and cored (if necessary), washed and chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh herbs, washed, chopped
  • 1 cup sweetener (may be adjusted to taste)
  • 1 cup vinegar

Wash two 1-pint mason jars, lids and rings in hot, soapy water, and thoroughly rinse. Sterilize the jars by placing them on a rack inside a large pot or boiling water canner.

Cover the jars with water and boil for 10 minutes.

Add the lids at the last minute.

In the meantime, wash and prepare the fruit and herbs. Place them together in a bowl and bruise them using a mortar or the back of a wooden spoon.

Remove the jars from the water and add the fruit and herbs. Measure out the sweetener into the jars and place the lids on the jars to seal tightly. Gently shake the contents to thoroughly combine, then allow the jars to sit at room temperature for 24 to 48 hours.

The final step is to remove the lids from the jars and add the vinegar to the fruit, herbs, and sugar. Gently mix the ingredients, then label them and place them in the fridge. Allow the jars to sit undisturbed for two to four weeks for best flavor.

Before using, remove the jars from the fridge and strain the fruit and herbs through damp cheesecloth, reserving the shrub syrup. You can store your shrub syrup in a tightly sealed jar in the refrigerator for up to six months

Another drinking vinegar with a rich history is switchel, sometimes known as haymaker’s punch. Thought to have originated in the West Indies, this refreshing, tangy concoction of apple cider vinegar, water, molasses or honey, and ginger became popular with American farmers after the 17th century. 

The combination of ingredients in switchel are easily digestible, full of electrolytes, and work to prevent dehydration.

The health benefits of apple cider vinegar have long been touted, most famously by American physician D.C. Jarvis in the 1950’s. His creation of honegar, a version of switchel using honey in place of molasses, was the cornerstone of his prescriptions for treatment of ailments such as arthritis, colds, infections, and varicose veins.  More recently, consumption of apple cider vinegar has been popularized to combat insulin resistance, allergies, and for the promotion of weight loss. Research into the actual effectiveness of these treatments is ongoing, but whether or not you adhere to the health claims of drinking vinegar, there is no denying the tasty appeal of these summery thirst-quenchers!


This is for Kleopatra.  My mother used to rent an apartment from a Greek family and across the hall was the owner’s sister in law – Nomeiki (No name) and her daughters.  I went to school with one of them, Patroula.  The younger one was Kleopatra; it is a Greek name as the Ptolemies were founded as an offshoot of one of Alexander’s Generals.  Well Kleopatra used to make her vinegar like the switchel above, with honey, a very popular Greek sweetener,  and water with lots of ice, (my Mum got her into that bit; Mum loved ice) for her vitamins as well as weight loss.  Sometimes, Kleo would just take the Greek vinegar and drink it straight out of the bottle and yell out of my name and  Kita!  (Look)  I have never known anyone else but her to do this, but after knowing her, I met others through her, that did the same.  I tried it once…I didn’t care for it as a drink but on lettuce without oil, it’s pretty good.

Well, if you try it, raise a glass for Kleopatra.  She’d be happy.

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