While Belle Isle Craft Spirits traces its premium moonshine legacy back to the Civil War era, moonshine itself has a much deeper history. Dating all the way back to the early Colonial period, moonshine has always been an integral part of Virginia and American culture.
Much like moonshine, shrub (or drinking vinegars) trace their history back just as far. After running into Meredyth Archer at our local farmers' market, we learned a little more about shrub and just how closely connected the history of moonshine and shrub seem to be. We were able to spend a gorgeous afternoon outdoors for a Happy Hour with Meredyth, the founder of Mother Shrub, and learn more about the revival of some of America's earliest delicacies.
Tell us a bit about your company…
Mother Shrub was established in September of 2015, when I threw away all of my excuses. Encouraged by friends and family who were telling me to start a business, I finally listened. After a lifetime of living and working among artists – husband Fielding is a painter, furniture designer and woodworker who designed the Mother shrub label, sons Julien, Eli and Henry design, photograph, and play music – I took the skills I acquired working as a consultant to creative entrepreneurs to create and build her own business.
What is shrub?
Derived from the Arabic word sharab meaning beverage, the name shrub has evolved over the years from the very similar Turkish beverage, sherbet, to what we know today as shrub - a non-alcoholic combination of fruit, vinegar and sugar; a drinking vinegar. It was popular as a soft drink and cocktail in colonial times. Mother Shrub is a modern take on this colonial classic.
How did you first start making shrub?
While looking through a stack of old cookbooks I inherited from my grandmother, I came across a recipe for raspberry fruit vinegar. Curious, I made the vinegar and started experimenting and researching, remembering that she always drank a sweetened vinegar mixture and encouraged us to drink it too. Years and many experimental batches of shrub later, Mother Shrub was born.
We do more than make shrub. We provide the medium for people to easily become creative with what they drink. Mother Shrub is about opening someoneʼs eyes to possibility, to trying something new. Itʼs so much fun having someone try our shrubs for the first time and seeing their reaction to the unconventional taste. Lots of “wow!”
Where did the name Mother Shrub come from?
Mother has so many meanings. Vinegar is created by an organism called “the mother". I am the mother of three boys, inspired by my grandmother and always encouraged by my own mother. The name Mother just seemed fitting.
If your company were a cocktail, what would its ingredients be?
Mix equal parts curiosity and approachability with a shot of irreverence. Serve over ice.
What does your company do off the clock?
We are always creating something! But we do love to take advantage of the outdoors - cycling, paddle boarding and floating down the James. Oh, and we also love sharing shrub cocktails with friends!
Whatʼs on your bar?
We have a well-stocked bar – Ruby Red, Honey Habanero and Premium Belle Isle Moonshine, vodka, gin and shrub of course! – Grapefruit, Cranberry and Black Cherry along with other flavors weʼre experimenting with.
What is your favorite Belle Isle and Mother Shrub combination right now?
Well, we have more than one!
- 1 1/2 oz. Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit Moonshine
- 1 1/2 oz. MOTHER shrub grapefruit shrub
- 4 oz. seltzer water
Serve over ice in a highball glass. Garnish with a grapefruit slice. For added oomph, add a splash of prosecco or cranberry shrub.
Recipe by Meredyth Archer
- 1 1/2 oz. Belle Isle Honey Habanero Moonshine
- 4 oz. Ginger beer
- 1/2 oz. MOTHER shrub lime or grapefruit shrub
- Juice of 1/2 lime
Serve over ice in a copper mug or highball glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.
Recipe by Meredyth Archer
Photos by Kate Magee