Shrubs, or drinking vinegars, are old-fashioned drinks that are made from a mixture of a fruit syrup and vinegar—and they carry an acidic punch. This strawberry balsamic shrub is a slightly sweeter take on a shrub, and is a great use for strawberry tops and leaves that otherwise would be thrown away. This recipe works best when strawberries tops have been removed by cutting straight across the top of the berry, so that some of the fruit is left underneath the leaves. This usually discarded bit of the berries gets transformed into a sweet pink syrup when they’re mashed with sugar and macerate overnight. Since no heat is applied, the strawberry flavor really shines through. Champagne vinegar and white balsamic both have crisp, clean flavors, so the finished shrub has both an acidic bite and a sweet strawberry flavor. Top it off with seltzer for a refreshing nonalcoholic cocktail.
Stir the strawberry tops with leaves and sugar in a medium bowl. Mash together with a potato masher until the strawberry tops release their juices, 1 minute. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours, stirring occasionally so a pool of liquid can accumulate in the bowl.
Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into another medium bowl, pressing on the solids with a rubber spatula to release all of the liquid, which will include some undissolved sugar. Whisk in the champagne vinegar and balsamic vinegar until the sugar dissolves, 2 minutes. Transfer the shrub to a jar, cover and refrigerate until ready to use (see Cook’s Note).
To serve, fill 4 tall glasses halfway with ice. Pour 1/4 cup of the shrub into each glass top with 1 1/4 cups of seltzer.
If your strawberry tops don't have any flesh, add some whole strawberries that are regular, bruised or overripe. Feel free to use regular balsamic vinegar if desired. The shrub can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
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