strawberry shrub + black pepper cocktail

styling by Abby Capalbo | photo by Erin McGinn 

The amount of vinegar used in the shrub depends on how sweet and fresh your strawberries are. Start with 1/2 cup as noted below, but taste the finished shrub after adding it and adjust as needed, adding another 2-4 tablespoons until mixture is a nice balance of tangy and sweet. Crushing the peppercorns slightly allows more of their flavor to release while simmering.

Strawberry Shrub
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and diced
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, or more to taste

Ice, for serving
2 ounces vodka, or to taste
Club soda, for serving
Freshly ground black pepper, for garnish

  1. Place peppercorns on a cutting board. Using bottom of a pan, gently smash peppercorns, breaking some open to release flavor. Transfer peppercorns to a double-lined piece of cheesecloth and tie with a piece of twine. Set aside.
  2. Place strawberries, sugar, and water in a medium saucepan. Add bundle of peppercorns. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened, 10-15 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Remove and discard peppercorn bundle.Pour mixture through a fine-mesh strainer, scraping off any syrup from bottom of strainer. Transfer pulp from inside strainer to a bowl (see cook’s note). Stir vinegar into syrup.Allow mixture to cool to room temperature. Store shrub, covered, in refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  3. To make a cocktail, place 1 large ice cube in a short glass. Add 2 ounces strawberry shrub, vodka, and top with club soda. Garnish with black pepper and serve.

Serves 1.

cook’s note: The reserved pulp may be served on top of ice cream or yogurt.