Heidi Kuhn was in a predicament. She had a carload of ugly nectarines that weren’t getting any prettier. Jam isn’t her jam, but she likes a good drink, so she turned the nectarines into a drinking vinegar called a shrub and from there Mixers and Elixirs was born.

At the time, Kuhn was between jobs and pondering her next move when opportunity found her by way of a fruit farmer with too many nectarines.

She was volunteering with the now-defunct Vancouver Fruit Tree Project – picking unwanted fruit from backyard trees to be shared with community groups – when she got the call from a farmer wanting to rid herself of nectarines not beautiful enough for stores

“I said I would take a couple boxes and they said, ‘no, you will take all the boxes and you will fill your car,’ so sure enough I filled my car with nectarines,” said Kuhn. “I thought it was heaven.”

Heidi Kuhn. Photo: Abby Wiseman / Small Batch Vancouver

Now Kuhn’s Mixers & Elixirs line has local fruit flavours like Cucumber and Black Pepper, Cherry Thyme, Blackcurrant made with spent currants from Odd Society’s Cassis liqueur, and Rhubarb Hibiscus.

A shrub is essentially fruit or vegetable juice mixed with vinegar – a natural preservative – and left to ferment for a couple weeks. The result is a concentrate that should be mixed with water and enjoyed on its own, or – as Kuhn likes it – with gin, vodka, campari, prosecco or any other spirit that tickles your fancy.  

“Shrubs are definitely wonderful to serve with soda water as an alcohol alternative,” said Kuhn, while sipping a campari with nectarine shrub. “The vinegar has a bit of a bite so you feel kind of satiated, but I like putting it with alcohol because I think it works well with that too.”

Shrubs have roots in England and they made their way to America as a thirst quenching beverage for farm workers and seamen, but the drinks popularity took a dive in the era of Coca Cola.

Recently drinking vinegars have made a comeback as a digestive aid and an alternative beverage. It’s shown up on cocktails lists and menus like Portland’s Pok Pok restaurant, but now shrubs are inching their way onto grocery store shelves.

Kuhn uses apple cider vinegar and local fresh ‘ugly’ fruit.  She uses rescued fruit 70 percent of the time, saving them from meeting their end at the bottom of a compost heap.

Mixers and Elixirs Shrubs in Nectarine Ginger and Black Currant. Photo: Abby Wiseman / Small Batch Vancouver

“It’s funny because I have to go through 20 limes before choosing one,” said Kuhn. “I have to remind myself that I’m in the ugly fruit business.”

The fruit may be ugly but the shrubs are beautiful with rich colours and flavours. The BlackCurrant is probably the best alternative to wine, while the Cucumber and Black pepper is refreshing and delicious with a splash of gin. The Nectarine Ginger is thirst quenching and bright, and the Cherry Thyme has a herbaceous finish.

Definitely a must try with or without the booze.

by | Oct 11, 2018 | Drink, Food + Drink

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Excellent work. Well done you. Bravo.

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