Dark plum & saffron shrub

by Angela Clutton

A sweet and acidic vinegar-based drink, perfect for grown-up soft drinks or cocktails

Shrubs, with their perfect balance of acidity and sweetness, are terrific ‘grown-up’ soft drinks or can be used to great effect in cocktails.

This plum shrub with notes of saffron and pepper needs the ripest and most flavoursome fruit for maximum flavour. The recipe is then given extra darkness and rich depth by using demerara sugar and red wine vinegar, along with the caster sugar and cider vinegar more typically used in shrubs.

For a soft drink, simply dilute to taste with sparkling water, or use in the rum cocktail recipe that follows. 


For the shrub:
600g ripe and juicy purple plums
70g demerara sugar
70g caster sugar
75ml red wine vinegar
75ml cider vinegar
½ tsp saffron threads
6 black peppercorns

For the rum and plum shrub cocktail:
50ml dark rum
25ml triple sec
25ml dark plum and saffron shrub
Orange twist


Quarter the plums into a bowl, discarding the stones. Stir in the sugars, cover, and set aside for 2 days for the fruit to macerate. It’s best kept somewhere cool, but not as cold as the fridge. Give it a stir occasionally.

A day into this fruit maceration, mix together the vinegars in a non-corrosive jug or bowl (glass is ideal). Pestle the saffron threads and add them to the vinegars, along with the peppercorns. Cover and set aside.

After the fruit has had its 2 days of maceration, it will have released lots of juices. Strain the plums through a fine sieve, and then pour the vinegar mix into the sieve too and let it all strain through to give a clear mix of plum syrup and infused vinegar: that is your shrub. Stir well, pour into a sterilised glass bottle, and store for at least 5 days before using so that the flavours have time to develop and the vinegar mellows.

To make a rum and plum shrub cocktail, fill a cocktail tin (or tall glass or jug) with lots of ice. Pour over the dark rum, triple sec and shrub. Stir over the ice for 1 min, then strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with a twist of orange.

Recipe: Angela Clutton
Image: Orlando Gili