Holiday Feature

Christmas Shrub

Makes about 2 quarts.


The spice liqueur known as shrub is a traditional holiday drink in St. Martin. Made in early December, it is uncorked on Christmas Eve. Tradition calls for the rum and flavorings to be infused in a glass jar in the sun for a month. I've redesigned the recipe so that you can make it in a single morning.

Shrub is traditionally sipped after the meal, as you would a cordial or liqueur. It can also be mixed with an equal volume of rum, stirred with ice, and served as an aperitif.


2 oranges
2 tangerines
2 lemons
2 cinnamon sticks, 3 inches long
20 whole cloves
20 allspice berries
1 vanilla bean, split in half
3 cups sugar
8 cups white rum


Wash the fruits. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest (oil-rich outer rind) in strips, avoiding the bitter white pith. Combine the citrus zest, cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice, vanilla bean, 2 cups sugar, and 2 cups water in a saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting, and let the ingredients infuse for 30 minutes. Strain the syrup into a large mixing bowl.

Combine the remaining 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water in a large, deep, heavy saucepan. Cover the pan and bring the mixture to a boil. Uncover the pan and cook the mixture over high heat until it caramelizes (turns golden brown), about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

Add 1 cup rum to the caramel. Be careful: the mixture may spatter. When the spattering has subsided, return the pan to low heat and cook the mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the caramel has dissolved in the rum.

Add the caramel mixture and remaining rum to the citrus-flavored syrup. Whisk to mix. With the aid of a funnel, pour the mixture into clean bottles. Seal with corks.

The shrub is ready to drink now, but it will be even better if you leave it for a week or so to allow the flavors to blend. Store in a cool, dark place.

Recipe from:

The Caribbean Pantry Cookbook
by Steven Raichlen
Photographs by Martin Jacobs
$25.00 (Cloth)
Recipe reprinted by permission.


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This page created December 1998; modified November 2009