Cinnamon Apple Shrub
(Alcoholic or Zero-Proof Cocktail Mixer)

October 26, 2021

Whether you are looking for something strong, sweet, tangy, or alcohol-free you’re covered. This cinnamon apple shrub is a seasonal drinking vinegar that adds the perfect amount of cozy fall flavor to your new favorite drink.

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Ever since I learned about shrubs, I knew that I wanted to make one using fresh apples and apple cider vinegar. However, in most of the research I did, other apple shrubs were made using a cold process, which left them waiting in the fridge for a week before you could use them.

That just wouldn’t do for me. I knew I wanted something a little bit faster, and so this hot-processed cinnamon apple shrub was born. Allowing the cinnamon sticks and apples to infuse in the boiling liquid pulls so much fall flavor from them. And you can get some bonus apple chutney out of it!

What You Need to Get Started

You can easily find all of the ingredients for this cinnamon apple shrub at your grocery store:

How to Make a Cinnamon Apple Shrub

A shrub is essentially a syrup that is made with vinegar. If you have ever made any type of fruit syrup, infused syrup, or even just a basic simple or rich simple syrup for cocktails then you are already halfway there.

In this apple version, you’ll be starting your shrub with brown sugar and apple cider vinegar. I decided to go with this particular vinegar, knowing that it would add a little extra apple flavor. Brown sugar seemed like such a natural choice, to add a little bit of that richer molasses taste.

Combine these together in your saucepan, and cook over medium heat. You’ll want to stir frequently at the beginning, since your goal at this point is to dissolve the sugar into the vinegar as it heats up. It should come together fairly quickly, since there is a one-to-one ratio by volume of liquid to sugar.

After the sugar has all dissolved, it’s time to add in the apples and cinnamon sticks.

I definitely suggest cutting your apples before starting. I found that small dicing worked the best here, since it created plenty of surface area for the apple to infuse into the sweetened vinegar.

Cinnamon sticks are also a must in this shrub. Ground cinnamon doesn’t dissolve well, and will end up sticking to the pot instead of mixing in. Using whole cinnamon sticks allows the flavors to work their way into the mixture.

Stir to combine both of these into the vinegar, and then set your spoon or spatula aside. You are going to want to bring this up to a boil to let it really combine into something flavorful.

Once boiling, cover the pot and allow it to continue cooking for about ten minutes. Covering will help keep the liquid in the pot. As the water from the vinegar boils off, it will collect on the lid and fall back into the pot. Leaving your pot uncovered will instead thicken the syrup.

Stir once halfway through cooking, but otherwise, this is fine to leave on its own. Just keep an eye on it to make sure your pot doesn’t boil over. If the bubbling is very aggressive, you can turn down the heat slightly, but try to keep it boiling the whole ten minutes.

Pull out the cinnamon sticks with a slotted spoon or tongs. Then, carefully pour the shrub through a mesh strainer into a heatproof jar. Use a flexible spatula to press against the apples in the strainer, getting as much liquid out of them as possible.

The extra apples themselves make a tasty snack, kind of like sweet pickled apples. They are chewy and tart, like fruit snacks. Or you can add a spoonful of them into whatever drink you make with your shrub.

You can make the shrub well in advance and keep it for a long time in the fridge thanks to the vinegar and sugar, which are both preservatives. Store it in a sealed jar for up to four months.

Cinnamon and apple come together in a sweet and tangy mixer, perfect for your favorite cocktail or mocktail. You need to try this cinnamon apple shrub!

How to Serve an Apple Shrub

A shrub is basically a vinegar-based syrup that you use to make other drinks. Think of it kind of like the syrup that is added to make soda, but with a more unique flavor than your typical cola. You can use it with or without alcohol, making a shrub perfect for entertaining a mixed group.

To drink your shrub without alcohol, you can simply mix an ounce or two with about five or six ounces of soda water. For a little extra kick, I added some spicy ginger syrup to mine. If you prefer to make yours into a cocktail, you’ll also want to add some liquor. Bourbon is my preference, but rum, tequila, and vodka could all work as well.

Shrubs are perfect for happy hour. Trying serving these with ricotta apricot toast, which will play up the spice of the cinnamon flavor. You can also enjoy a shrub with dessert, such as alongside a pear and apple crisp or apple oatmeal cookies with cinnamon caramel.

Use Up Leftover Ingredients

Other Fruit-Forward Drinks to Try

Cinnamon Apple Shrub

A zero-proof drinking vinegar, perfect to use in cocktails, mocktails, and other drinks, featuring fresh apples, brown sugar, and cinnamon.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time25 mins
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6 oz
Calories: 140kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 ½ Cups Apples small diced, sweet variety like Gala
  • 2 Cinnamon Sticks

Instructions

  • Add the brown sugar and vinegar to a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat stirring to dissolve the sugar.
  • Once the sugar has dissolved, add in the diced apples and cinnamon sticks. Stir just to combine, then bring the mixture to a boil without stirring
  • Covered and continue to boil for 10 min, stirring once halfway through.
  • Remove the pan from the heat, and keep it loosely covered. Let the shrub sit for at least at least 30 minutes to infuse and cool.
  • Pour through a mesh strainer into a jar. You can use the shrub immediately or store it for later.

Notes

  • Apples: I suggest using a sweet type of apple in this shrub, as opposed to something more tart. If you'd like to snack on the strained apples later, a harder variety is also a good idea. Gala and Honeycrisp work well. 
  • Make ahead tips:
    • Once cooled to room temperature, store the shrub in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 months. 
    • You can also keep the strained out apples in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 weeks. 
  • Nutritional information is for the shrub only, not the cocktails below.
 
Zero-Proof Cocktail
  • 1 ½ oz Cinnamon Apple Shrub
  • ¼ oz Ginger Syrup
  • 5 oz Soda Water
Combine all ingredients in a highball with ice, and stir to combine. Garnish with a cinnamon stick or apple slice.
 
Alcoholic Cocktail
  • 1 oz Cinnamon Apple Shrub
  • 1 ½ oz total any combination of Bourbons/Whiskeys
  • 4 oz Soda Water
Combine shrub and whiskey with a handful of ice in a mixing glass and stir to combine. Strain over fresh ice in a highball, and top with soda water. Garnish with a cinnamon stick or apple slice.
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