TikTok Is Drinking Vinegar, but Shrubs Aren’t Anything New

·3 min read
Photo:  Oleksandra Naumenko (Shutterstock)
Photo: Oleksandra Naumenko (Shutterstock)

When you look at a bottle of vinegar in your cabinet, what’s the first thing you think about? Most people, including me, think of it as a great ingredient for vinaigrettes, sauces, marinades, that sort of thing. But one of its many uses, and one that a lot of people don’t consider, is as a beverage.

This did occur to TikTok user @mandyvjones, who recently posted a video in which she tastes a vinegar-based beverage her pilates instructor told her was essentially “healthy Coke.” Check out the video for yourselves:

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In the video, mandyvjones claims that the blend of balsamic vinegar and La Croix tastes just like Coca-Cola. I don’t buy that—but I don’t doubt that it tastes good. Commenters, meanwhile, hated the idea, saying things like, “believe it or not straight to jail,” and “I thought this was a joke but y’all in the comments are making me think she’s being serious and now I’m concerned.”

But guess what? You can, in fact, drink vinegar, and I actually highly recommend it.

Obviously, it’s a pretty strong flavor (that’s kind of its whole thing), so if you’re going to imbibe vinegar it’s usually not by the glass; you’d probably be rolling around clutching your stomach, which is my favorite hobby, but I know it’s not for everyone. Instead, you can mix a little bit of vinegar into another liquid, like sparkling water along with ginger or fruit, to create a refreshing drink known as a shrub or switchel, whose differences I’ll outline below. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, because I was a foolish skeptic once and I used to think the idea was gross, too—but no longer.

What is a shrub?

A shrub is considered a drinking vinegar, which is exactly what it sounds like: a vinegar base meant for sipping. Shrubs are vinegar-based beverages flavored with various ingredients, typically fruit, herbs, and spices, diluted with your liquid of choice, often still or sparkling water. You can buy bottles of premixed shrubs at specialty stores (fair warning, the ones I’ve seen are expensive), or you can easily make them at home.

Food52 has a straightforward explainer on how to craft a shrub. All you need is a 1:1:1 ratio of chopped fruit, vinegar, and sugar, which means the possibilities are nearly endless. There are two methods for making shrub syrup, one of which involves the stove and one of which involves no heat, but multiple days’ worth of idle steeping time. The hot method is faster, but not all fruits can withstand it, so it depends on your ingredients.

Once you’ve crafted your ideal syrup, you can booze it up by mixing a small amount of shrub base with your favorite spirit, like gin, or add a bit of syrup to sparkling wine to create a cocktail. I’ve been served some downright delicious shrub cocktails at bars before. The acidity of the vinegar is a welcome way to add brightness to your drink, one that keeps your palate interested in every sip.

What is switchel, then?

Switchel is a drink similar to a shrub that involves water, vinegar, and sweetener. It’s traditionally made with liquid sweeteners like molasses or maple syrup and is often flavored with ginger, though that’s not a requirement. Consider this a summertime alternative to lemonade, just as refreshing but far more versatile. Here’s a recipe for blueberry switchel with balsamic and basil.

So there’s no need to get feisty in the TikTok comments. If drinking vinegar is a foreign concept to you, consider all the sweet acidic beverages you already enjoy. Mixing balsamic and La Croix might not taste exactly like Coke, but its flavor profile certainly has precedent, and it’s one you should taste for yourself.