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Blueberry shrub syrup: thyme, lemon, spice

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making blueberry shrub syrup from above on blue background

Blueberry shrub syrup preserves fresh in season blueberries in coconut vinegar, flavoured with low GI cane sugar, thyme, lemon, coriander and cinnamon for a refreshing and healthy drink with soda water. Blueberry shrub syrup with soda water can be improved with a port float for a flavoursome low alcohol cocktail and used in desserts and cocktails such as a blueberry pickle pisco sour cocktail. Blueberry shrub syrup drinking vinegar is a versatile and healthy low sugar syrup that is packed with complex flavours from real fresh blueberries, fresh lemon zest and juice, sour and sweet coconut vinegar, low GI cane sugar and spice from zesty coriander, sweet cinnamon and herbaceous thyme. I have garnished my improved blueberry shrub cocktail with a sprig of thyme that has burst into tiny light purple flowers, along with blueberries and a lemon twist and served it over a mountain of crushed ice for a very refreshing, low alcohol drink with big flavour.

What is a shrub syrup drinking vinegar?
A shrub syrup drinking vinegar is a means of preserving fresh in season fruits and vegetables with vinegar, flavoured with sugar, herbs and spices. The usual recipe for a shrub uses a formula of 1:1:1 – 1 part fruit or vegetable, to 1 part vinegar, to 1 part sugar. However, as the vinegar is the preserving agent – it is possible to reduce the sugar content to taste.

How to make a shrub syrup drinking vinegar: Method cold infusion
I used a slow process of cold infusion to make this blueberry shrub syrup following the method outline in Michael Dietsch’s (2016) amazing book Shrubs. The flavour pairing of blueberry with cinnamon, lemon, thyme and coriander and the use of a low GI cane sugar and coconut vinegar is my own contribution.

The blueberries are muddled and mixed with fresh lemon juice and thyme, spices and an oleo saccharum made from extracting the lemon oils by rubbing with sugar and left to infuse overnight. The resulting thick syrup is then strained to remove the large pieces of muddled blueberry, hard spices, thyme and lemon zest. Vinegar is then passed through the strained blueberries to remove any trapped sugar. The shrub syrup is then refrigerated. Reserve the leftover muddled blueberries for another use such as adding to smoothies or nice cream – removing the hard spices before blending.

How to use shrub syrups in drinks, desserts and cocktails
Shrub syrup drinking vinegars are a great way to add complex flavours to drinks, desserts and cocktails as through infusing with vinegar they intensify flavours. Using vinegar to preserved fruits and vegetables in a shrub also allows for addition of a souring element to drinks, cocktails and desserts. I have made a pineapple and fennel shrub syrup and used this in refreshing drinks and margarita cocktails. Shrubs are also a fantastic way to use up too ripe or abundant seasonal fruits such as mulberries or raspberries. Shrubs such as my raspberry lime shrub are delicious as a syrup for ice cream and as a cocktail ingredient such as in a raspberry lime gin fix cocktail.

How is blueberry shrub syrup with thyme, lemon, spice different?
The blueberry shrub syrup with thyme, lemon, coriander and cinnamon offers a seasonal celebration of fresh blueberries. The blueberry shrub syrup can be used as a complex flavour base for mocktails and cocktails such as the improved blueberry shrub cocktail recipe below with soda water and a port float or in a blueberry pickle pisco sour cocktail. Blueberry shrub syrup is also delicious poured over fresh fruit or ice cream.

Flavour pairing: blueberries, lemon, thyme, spice, coconut
To enhance the flavour of the blueberries I have paired them with lemon, thyme, cinnamon and coriander along with a light coconut vinegar and a low GI cane sugar. This combination adds a depth and complexity of flavour to the shrub which has a strong blueberry flavour but notes of bright lemon, zesty coriander, sweet cinnamon and herbaceous thyme. The coconut vinegar is a lighter style vinegar that is sweet and sour and does not overpower the blueberries. The low GI cane sugar offers a lower GI sweetener with a cane sugar flavour and has the advantage of allowing the colour of the blueberries to shine through.

Healthy and versatile base flavour for drinks, cocktails, desserts
Blueberry shrub syrup is a healthy and versatile base flavour for drinks, cocktails and desserts packed with antioxidants from the blueberries, probiotics from the coconut vinegar and is low GI for healthier lower sugar drinks, cocktails and desserts.

Improved blueberry shrub cocktail: low alcohol port cocktail
Inspired by Jerry Thomas’ (1862: 239-241) temperance lemonade recipes in his Bar-tender’s Guide I’ve created a low alcohol cocktail using this blueberry shrub syrup served over a mountain of crushed ice and topped with soda water and a port float for a very flavourful drink, garnished with a lemon twist, fresh blueberries and a sprig of fresh thyme. Jerry Thomas (1862: 239-241) advises that his ‘Lemonade. (Fine for parties)’ recipe appearing in the ‘Temperance Drinks’ recipes section of his Bar-tender’s Guide can be ‘improved’ by the inclusion of a small amount of alcohol for flavour – in this case sherry – in a similar way that we make a lemon lime and bitters using alcoholic bitters to create a delicious and refreshing flavourful drink. If you like strawberries and blood oranges – see my posts on improved strawberry shrub or improved blood orangeade for other delicious low alcohol cocktails. This style of low alcohol cocktail is full of seasonal flavour enhanced, or as Jerry Thomas (1862) would say ‘improved’, with the addition of sherry or port for flavour.

Blueberry shrub syrup: thyme, lemon, spice

Print Recipe
Serves: 1 small batch of blueberry shrub syrup (1 cup); 1 improved blueberry shrub port cocktail Cooking Time: Blueberry shrub syrup: 12 ½ hours (12 hours infusion, 15 minutes preparation, 15 minutes sterilise jar); Improved blueberry shrub port cocktail: 10 minutes


  • Blueberry shrub syrup: 125 grams blueberries
  • ¼ cup low GI cane sugar
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • ½ cup coconut vinegar
  • Cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Improved blueberry shrub cocktail: 1 shot blueberry shrub syrup
  • Soda water to top
  • Port to float on top
  • Crushed ice
  • Glassware: fancy short glass
  • Garnish: fresh blueberries, lemon twist, thyme sprig



Blueberry shrub syrup: Wash blueberries and muddle well with a muddling stick


Add to a clean preserving jar


Zest lemon and rub lemon zest with sugar, set aside


Juice lemon, and add juice to the muddled blueberries


Add cinnamon, coriander seeds and thyme


Add the sugar and lemon zest mixture and stir to dissolve the sugar


Place the preserving jar in the fridge overnight


Sterilise your jar by washing in warm soapy water, rinsing well and placing on a cookie sheet in a 110 C oven for 15 minutes or until completely dry, boil the lid on the stove top in boiling water for 5 minutes and allow to air dry – for more information see Resources


Strain the syrup through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl to remove the solids


Pour the coconut vinegar over the solids to remove any trapped sugar – reserve the blueberries for another use such as in smoothies or nice cream


Decant the syrup into a sterilised preserving jar and store in the fridge


Improved blueberry shrub cocktail: Prepare your glass by filling with crushed ice


Crush ice by wrapping in a tea towel and banging with a rolling pin, use an ice or julep spoon to add to your glass


Pour the blueberry shrub into the prepare glass


Add a small cap of ice if the shrub syrup melts the ice and it sinks into the glass, this cap of ice is great for resting garnishes on


Top with soda water


For an improved blueberry shrub cocktail add a port float by pouring a little port over a long handled bar spoon onto the top of the drink


Garnish with a lemon twist, gently bend the lemon peel over the drink to release the oils and then twist, passing around the outside rim of the glass, then place on top of the cap of ice


Add some fresh blueberries and a sprig of fresh thyme, spank the thyme between your palms to release the aroma before adding to the drink




Michael Dietsch (2016). Shrubs: An Old Fashioned Drink for Modern Times, Second Edition. Countryman Press: New York.

Jerry Thomas (1862, 2018 reprint). The Bar-tender’s Guide: Bon-vivant’s companion.

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