Recipes

bourbon peach smash

Most conversations about shrubs go like this.

“Wait, like the green bushy things that grow in the ground?”
“No, it’s a drink.”
“A leafy drink?”
“No, it’s actually just three ingredients — fruit, sugar, and vinegar…”
“Wait, you drink vinegar? Why would you drink vinegar?”
“Well, we love sour things like lemon and lime in drinks, they complement sweet flavors…”
“So there’s booze in this?”
“… Sometimes. Sometimes it’s just a soda.”
“Well, that sounds nice.”

[Note: They are being polite.]

two peaches, but i only used onethinly sliced peachthinly sliced peachpeaches + sugar + apple cider vinegar

Vinegar — basically what grapes turn into once they age past wine, see my fridge door at any time for an example — has been around since ancient times, as has the concept of drinking vinegars. Vinegar was used to sterilize unclean water, and was consumed in biblical times when wine was forbidden. Later in England, it was used to preserve fruit and Colonial Americans took the technique over with them. Pouring some of vinegar off the fruit and mixing it with things like soda, wine, or booze makes for some delicious drinks, far more complex than your average lemonade. But please don’t mistake me for an expert on shrubs, however; everything I know I learned from this fantastic book.

a few hours later or the next dayall you'll needa few slices of peach and mint leavesmuddle it with mint leaves

[If you like to make connections, the author, Michael Dietsch, is the husband of Jennifer Hess, whose tomato and provolone sandwiches got me back into the kitchen when I thought I’d never cook again after our second kid, and would be so good tonight, don’t you think?]

a splash of ginger beer

This drink isn’t really a true shrub, however, although it toys with the idea. It’s more of a Starter Shrub or a Shrub Lite, and I made it last summer as a way to make good use of the peaches I couldn’t resist that the market that would go soft after a day. Thinly sliced and macerating them with sugar and the tiniest bit of apple cider vinegar (instead of the lemon or lime I’d usually use) overnight (or at least a few hours) turned them into something complex and unforgettably delicious. From there — inspired by a delicious drink I’d had when staying at this charming B&B while I was in town for this wedding — I muddled them in the bottom of a glass with some mint and poured some bourbon and ginger beer [a non-alcoholic drink] over them and it was one of the most delicious cocktails I’ve ever had.

bourbon peach smash

It’s been torture to wait this long before telling you about it, especially because many of the photos include my daughter stealing ice cubes in the background, cracking me up — we went on vacation the next week and when we came back, peach season was over and I didn’t want to torment you with something so much better with good peaches. Let’s make them every weekend for the rest of the summer to make up for lost time, okay?

i wish i were a little bit taller...

Bourbon Peach Smash

This recipe, like most cocktails, is very adjustable to your tastes; use more mint or bourbon or ginger beer, or less of everything, make it the way you like it. You could use more soda or ginger beer (which is almost always nonalcoholic, but do check) instead of bourbon to make it alcohol-free. But don’t miss it.

    Fruit
  • 1 large very ripe peach, pitted, very thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • Pinch of salt
  • Assembly
  • A few macerated peach slices
  • 3 to 4 fresh mint leaves
  • Ice
  • 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) syrup from peaches
  • 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) bourbon
  • Splash of chilled seltzer or ginger beer

For the fruit: Place peach slices in a jar, cover with sugar, water, 1 tablespoon vinegar (if you’re a shrub newbie or nervous) and up to 2 tablespoons (if you’re more confident you’ll like the flavor, or are looking at a longer steeping time), and a pinch of salt. Place lid on jar, give it a swish/shake until mixed and let chill in fridge for 3 hours, overnight, or up to 1 week.

To make a cocktail: Use a fork to remove a few macerated peach slices from syrup and place in the bottom of a glass (ours are 8.75 ounces) with a few mint leaves. Muddle them together, smashing them into smaller pieces. Add syrup from peaches and bourbon and stir. Add ice cubes and finish with seltzer or ginger beer.

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80 comments on bourbon peach smash

  1. Alissa

    Oh man… The only thing I don’t like about this is that I just used all of my overripe peaches yesterday in your crispy peach cobbler! (Which was delicious, especially with a few blueberries tossed in and some bourbon on the side.) Looks like I definitely know what is happening with our next round of peaches next week!

  2. Ellen

    YUM! And we’re going peach picking this weekend. How do you think this would be with gin/vodka/tequila? Just one of them, not all! Thank you!!

        1. nbmandel

          I made some peach shrub last week and we had it with vodka and seltzer over plenty of ice, no mint. “More, please!” my friends said.

    1. deb

      Were hers a total nightmare to crack? I love them because they’re the only ones (vs. silicone or plastic) that don’t get a freezer-y smell after a while but it’s such a fight to get the cubes loose.

      1. Lynn B

        Deb, I grew up doing ice duty for the fam with trays just like this. I turned them upside down and ran tap water over the bottom of the trays for a few seconds before cracking and that usually did the trick. Nothing works as well as these old metal ones!

        1. deb

          Thanks. I just don’t think mine is as well made as they used to be. I have a new tray and the bottom dips a little below the top grid, so even with warm water and a 3-4 minute wait, it’s a — my daughter quoted me on this this morning — “fight fight fight” to get them loose.

  3. This sounds like the perfect summer cocktail! I would never have thought to use vinegar in a cocktail, but I’m excited to give it a try! #mindblown

  4. This looks AMAZING!!! I can’t wait to make it!!! But I’m out of fresh peaches right now (and clearly need this drink now!) Do you think frozen peaches would work or just fresh?

    1. You can use peach nectar instead of peaches. We make these in large batches for parties that way. I also recommend a couple drops of bitters in the mix.

  5. Charlotte in Toronto

    I’ve heard of shrubs but I’ve never tried one. This looks delightful. I can’t wait to try it. Thanks for this!

  6. I LOVE shrubs and I had half a nectarine in the fridge so I made this immediately. I cut the sugar down a tad (will cut more next time unless the fruit isn’t under ripe) and bumped the vinegar up a bit. Turned out great with rye! This will be in my fridge for the rest of the summer for sure. Might try with gin next…or brandy?

  7. Marcia

    Looks delicious. I have some fancy pants Apple cider In the pantry, and a stash of GUS ginger ale. Always looking for great drinks sans alcohol.

  8. Deanna

    This looks like the perfect thing to use up the peaches I couldn’t finish before going on vacation. I’m sure they’ll be sad shriveled things when I get back, but it’s a sacrifice I’m will to make for my last minute week in Greece. (I highly recommend Crete if you’re looking for another family getaway. The food is great, and the beaches are lovely).

  9. lanaerez

    Just when I am looking for an alcoholic drink to serve, what a timing!
    I have a bag of overripe mangoes in the fridge, I guess they can substitute the peaches, rihgt?

  10. Ahhhh and I’m just out of apple cider vinegar! Am eyeing the normal white wine vinegar but I don’t think it would be the same? Will hit google. Refuse to go out to the shops again, it’s too hot!

    1. Hope this helps, I went on a shrub bender while pregnant and, over the course of a year, used all the vinegars: apple cider, white wine, regular white vinegar. and all the fruits and aromatics. Pineapple, apple, mango, basil leaves, rosemary, mint, pepper….. all were excellent. It’s hard to mess up.

  11. Jennie M

    Looks amazing! I was thinking of making this in a large drink dispenser for a party- do you think it is fine to have it sit in one or should it be served right away?

  12. Katie

    I took a shrub class at SHED in Healdsburg last summer and I’m hooked. They make a beet shrub that is terrific – the taste & color are spectacular. I made a peach shrub with ginger & my daughter did an orange shrub with coriander. The chef teaching the class talked about mixing up the vinegar depending on what produce & spices you are using. A woman from South American woman told us how her mother had a crock by her kitchen sink & would throw citrus in it, along with cinnamon stick, nutmeg, vinegar & sugar, to make a shrub for her kids to drink with soda water at Christmas time. A citrus-sy shrub with bourbon would be wonderful winter drink….

  13. Lan

    Yum!!! I like my cocktails a little stronger so went with 1 Tbsp syrup and 4 Tbsp whiskey with a splash of ginger ale. Yummy!!!

  14. Shrub is different where my family comes from in Martinique. They macerate fruit in rhum agricole and serve it at the holidays. The rhum making “Clement” has at least 30 varieties of shrub from coconut and mango to coffee and chocolate. #doesntsuck!

    1. Ali

      I made the syrup and brought it to a family picnic where we mixed it with ginger ale, it was wonderful.
      The next evening I mixed some leftover with bourbon and ginger ale.
      To be honest I preferred it without the bourbon. (<- words I never thought I would say)

  15. Josie

    Really, all I can say is, “Yum!” My husband and I love bourbon, but it’s more of a winter drink for us. This summery conconction, though, is the best of all worlds. I went for it with the vinegar because Deb’s recipes have never ever failed me. The peaches only had a chance to sit for three hours when I made the drinks, and they were perfect. (I made enough, though, for many more cocktails, so I can’t wait to see how they taste today!) I added some ginger beer to top of our drinks, but honestly, I’ll leave it out next time.

    This recipe has given me all sorts of ideas for other fruits to turn into shrubs, and all kinds of herbs from my garden to use instead of mint, Thai basil being top on the list.

    You must make this!

  16. Erin

    I love a great whiskey recipe, and this one did not disappoint! So happy to see this before I headed to the farm stand to pick up pickling cucumbers and beets. This was my reward for canning three batches of pickles. Yum!

  17. Emily

    Giada’s strawberry omelette. I was like, a sweet omelette with vinegar soaked strawberries? Either gross or interesting. It was so delicious Check it out. I’d love to see your riff on it.

  18. Andrea

    Talk about a fantastic summer afternoon drink!! Thank you for the new favorite! Made it with white peaches, 2:1 ratio of Q club soda : Goslings ginger beer, Jefferson’s bourbon, no mint. Perfect!

  19. Andrea

    I made this, but with peach nectar which we had in the fridge, since I didn’t have a peach. I used the nectar as “peach syrup” in assembly + dash of ACV + rest of assembly ingredients. It was so good, I had to make a 2nd. This morning, I look over at the fruit bin and see a lonely, ripe peach just sitting there. Arg! Off to make the actual shrub this time and have it ready for the end of the week cocktail.

  20. I made the peach vinegar on Saturday 7/20. It is in my fridge right now! The plan was to have friends over Tuesday night, but alas the dinner party got pushed till Monday 7/30, do you think the shrub will last? Will it still taste okay 10 days later?

  21. A.S.

    Yessss! Shrubs forever! I have 2 steeping in the fridge right now: blueberry ginger and a strawberry black peppercorn! I gave up alcohol over a year ago now, but still love special occasion fancy drinks. I love to mix mine with seltzer water, fresh herbs, and yes to bitters! Totally delicious and thirst quenching.

    1. Charlotte in Toronto

      That sound like lovely fruit combinations! What flavor of bitters did you use? I have a whole collection of bitters that I’m always looking for new ways to use.

  22. Janet

    Well I got straight up and made the peach “shrub”. I am in georgia so we have fresh beautiful peaches. I’ll let you know.

  23. Jennifer R.

    I just happened to have a too-ripe peach & ginger beer in the fridge, so this was perfect timing! This is definitely my new favorite lazy-summer-evening drink. :)

    Question: Thinking ahead, since peach season is quickly coming to an end… could you macerate, then separately freeze the peaches and juice, without losing too much quality? Or at that point would it just be easier to buy frozen peaches?

    1. catchtanya

      This is a great question and I would love to know too. It seems to me that you could. Youd probably lose some quality but its bound to be better than store bought peaches no? The other option i guess would be freezing peaches, defrosting and then following recipe? Id slice them first though because after freezing they’ll be to soft to slice

      1. deb

        I’m not sure at all, haven’t used frozen peaches here, not sure if it would just be mushy if you used them. I think this could be good with mango, perhaps?

  24. I make a nonalcoholic drink called Good Girl Moonshine that I learned while on the Trim Healthy Mama diet. I never thought I could stomach drinking vinegar, but now I love this drink. To turn it into a “not so good girl moonshine” sounds fun. :)

  25. Charlotte in Toronto

    Deb, I have to commend and congratulate you on creating a polite and respectful community of followers. So often I read great articles on Food52 only to be shocked at some of the comments that people make. I’m so disappointed when I see that. I’ve stopped reading the comments. Either these same trolls do not comment on your site, or they watch their P’s and Q’s when they do. I recall the occasional nasty commenter who was swiftly chased down and trampled by your other loyal readers. We love you and will always protect you.

  26. Liesl Callahan

    Shrubs! We grew up going to this lovely old school restaurant with my father that served grape juice shrubs as an appetizer. We would have shrubs and Dad had a Rusty Nail. I will definitely experiment with your recipe. Thanks for sharing!

  27. Suzanne

    This was a huge hit! I have no idea what ginger beer is, so I used ginger ale. It was still really good. I used 1 tbsp of vinegar and couldn’t taste it. Will use 2 next time. Still, it was a nice refreshing drink that wasn’t very strong and wasn’t too sweet. I used tall glasses though, so I might have used more ginger ale than if I’d used a short glass.

  28. Cy

    I ended purchasing the lovely book “shrubs” thank you for the rec and this recipe. I’ve made a few. Pet peeve and note to any aspiring cook book authors( Deb excluded ) none of the recipe tell you how much it makes. “Pour into mason jar” pint? Quart? That kind of oversight drives me crazy. Also, when restaurants don’t list their menu prices on their website. Details people! Deb, can’t wait to make this!

  29. Hi Deb, While I thought your previous cocktail recipe for a Boulevardier was outstanding (and I shared it with many a friend over the winter months), your Bourbon Peach Smash has become the OFFICIAL cocktail of summer here in my neck of the woods. Refreshing and hitting all the right taste buds on a hot summer day. And here I thought you were extremely gifted in the food department. Now I hold you in highest regard in the cocktail world. Keep on blogging, girl!

  30. Jeani

    Ohhh my gosh!!! … to several things : your site with all this great stuff on it, this drink, the possibilities it brings to my mind, the happy people you have commenting here …. I’m so glad I found you guys. I toast you, and the remaining summer, with this scrumptious drink!

  31. Monica

    Made the peach syrup a couple days ahead of a bbq we were hosting. Accidentally dropped the mason jar a couple hours before dinner as I was pulling it from the fridge. Made a second batch and it was still extraordinarily good. Guests started arriving a half hour early, so did a ‘build your own cocktail or mocktail’ station instead of putting together in pitcher and it was a huge hit. Lots of ways to vary… sparkling water + ginger beer, one or the other, use peach syrup to make a Kentucky Mule (bourbon instead of vodka), make as more of a mojito by adding extra mint, or adding more sparkling water to give it more of a spritzer feel. Really fun to see and taste the many variations. The recipe is basically fool-proof, no matter what life throws. Thanks Deb for another keeper!

  32. Brenna

    Just made these and they were a big hit. Took a deep breath and did the full amount of apple cider vinegar and was glad I did. Really just a great, refreshing summer cocktail. We used Woodford Reserve–usually on hand for mint juleps in the spring. We’re adding this new cocktail to the summer rotation. Thanks for sharing! (I am now on the hunt for shrubs at any bar I can find them.)

  33. catchtanya

    It is incredibly difficult to “thinly slice” overripe peaches. Even still this is in incredible recipe so WORTH IT.

  34. Hilary

    Damn. This is the PERFECT summer drink! Better than we expected. Don’t pass on the ginger beer unless you know for certain you would hate it. It really makes the drink extra special!

  35. Colleen

    If you are making these for a crowd on a hot day and want to be able to drink more than one (because you picked over 40 lbs of peaches and need to invite friends over to help make jam).

    1 c shrub
    2 c bourbon (because I misread the recipe as a 1:2 ratio)
    a few sprigs mint
    lots of ice (to fill a two quart container about half full)

    Shake hard to bash up the mint and cool the liquid (which probably dilutes it more than the original recipe, but it does not taste to thin).

    Add 12 oz ginger beer (the good stuff)
    OR
    12 oz seltzer and about 2 T finely grated ginger (less sweet, and a bit more ginger flavor)

    Stir

    Pour into glasses filled with ice (straining through a fine strainer if you used the grated ginger). Garnish with a few slices of peach and some mint.

  36. Lynn

    Yum! It tastes just the way it read. I confess, I swapped out the apple cider vinegar for maple vinegar, because I just got it and it seemed like a good idea, and it is. I reduced the quantity of sugar to account for the sweetness. I’ve just started my first drink and am already plotting when to have my second one! Perfect for a Saturday afternoon taking care of stuff at home.

  37. Kristin

    I am drinking this as I type…soooo delicious!! I added a bit more ginger beer as I am a lightweight, but ohmigosh…bourbon and peaches!! Heaven!

  38. Franny

    I’ve fallen in love with another of your recipes! First of all, I had never heard of a shrub except the kind with leaves that grows on the edge of the garden. Now, I can’t look at a fruit without thinking how to make it into a shrub. I’ve made this Peach Shrub six times this summer (we didn’t drink it all ourselves, we shared) and everyone that tried it loves it too. Thanks again Deb Perlman