By Kristi Alexandra
Lauded for their great taste and health benefits, shrubs are having a day in the sun of late.
Derived from the Arabic word sharâb, meaning “to drink,” shrubs are a drinking concentrate made with fruit and vinegar that complement alcoholic and booze-free beverages alike.
So, if that sounds familiar, you may have spotted Heidi Kuhn of Mixers and Elixirs around Vancouver–perhaps at Olympic Village’s Fermentation Fest in previous years. Or, more recently, at local farmer’s markets (where you can find Mixers and Elixirs nearly every weekend).
Kuhn, who owns and operates Mixers and Elixirs, produces small-batch shrubs made in Vancouver, harvesting local produce.
“Shrubs work for people who drink alcohol…and people who don’t drink alcohol,” Kuhn explains to WestCoastFood, noting that you can mix it into a cocktail or drink it with a simple glass of soda water.
“The magic of vinegar is that it preserves everything. So when I mention, at farmer’s markets, that the shrubs have apple cider vinegar in them, it has a nice, popular cache. It’s a cure-all, it has everything! So people get excited about that.”
Hence, the shrubs can be used both as a mixer and an elixir.
Seventy per cent of her produce comes from rescued fruit, lending to Mixers and Elixirs’ seasonality–as well as reducing food waste.
“We source from people who have orchards or other businesses and they’re like, ‘I picked 10 pounds, then I made some jam or jelly…’ and I’m like, ‘I want the other 120 pounds that are on those trees so we rescue them from rotting,’” Kuhn says, recalling an event when she received several pallets of nectarines in exchange for a volunteer job years ago.
“I thought, ‘I’m not much of a jam person. How can I process this fruit? What am I going to do with all of this?’ I’m much more of a cocktail person.”
The lightbulb moment lent to Mixers and Elixirs’ first-ever shrub in 2015: the nectarine shrub with ginger. Depending on the season, and what needs rescuing, seasonal shrubs have been on offer ever since.
Some bottles you’ll find are of quince, rhubarb hibiscus, cucumber black pepper, black currant, cherry thyme, and apple salal berry.
“We’re using repurposed salal berries,” says Kuhn, “it’s a pacific northwest berry, Indigenous to this area. We also used repurposed quince, which is rescued because a lot of people don’t use quince. It’s a bit more Eastern European or Persian.”
Each batch of shrubs has about 60 pounds of BC fruit, including stems, seeds and skins.
“All of that adds to the flavour of the shrubs,” says Kuhn.
“It’s naturally fermented, it has a really nice probiotic in it. I try not to disrupt all of that, so I don’t over-filter. It’s really important that all of the product is in it, and that sediment will take shape over time.”
It’s hard to believe that, with a flavour so bold, refreshing and satiating, Mixers and Elixirs’ shrubs are made with just three ingredients: apple cider vinegar, fruit, and non-GMO cane sugar.
So, while Kuhn herself doesn’t cop to being a health practitioner, her simple formula works for cocktail connoisseurs and health-food lovers alike.
“If my vodka soda has a little bit of apple cider vinegar in it, I feel like I’m winning,” she resoves.
Mixers & Elixirs bottles retail for $17, with smaller bottles for $7 each or 3 for $20 at farmer’s markets.
Find Mixers & Elixirs at the following markets: (please check their website to confirm dates)
Trout Lake Farmers Market – Saturday, October 19
Mount Pleasant Farmers Market – Sunday, October 6 & 27
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