Make this Traditional Rum Shrub Recipe like a Victorian Smuggler

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How to make traditional rum shrub using citrus fruits, ginger, and dark rum. Shrub is a victorian rum liqueur that is delicious sipped neat or used to make sweet cocktails.

Victorian Shrub Recipe: Sweet Rum Infused with Autumn Spices

A few weeks ago a friend gave me a small jar of an amber-coloured liquid she called ‘Shrub’. To me it looked a bit deadly and to be honest I was afraid to smell it let alone taste it. Imagine my surprise when just a few days later I screwed the top to discover the sweet aroma of rum sweetened with sugar, citrus, and spices. The unusual liqueur had the consistency of light sugary syrup and tasted like something Victorian ladies might have sipped after dinner. I was hooked.

As it turns out, Shrub is an entire category of rum-based liqueur with quite an illustrious history. In the days of bootlegging and smuggling, barrels of rum used to be sunk in harbours off the south coast of England only to be pulled back up when the coast was clear.

Unfortunately, the liquor’s sojourn in the sea left it with a brackish flavour due to small amounts of saltwater seeping in through the barrels’ seams. Instead of throwing the whole lot out, some forgotten genius figured out how the saltiness could be disguised with sugar and spices to make it palatable, and more importantly saleable.

Rum Shrub Recipe - a British rum liqueur infused with citrus and spices. It's delicious on its own or in mixed drinks! #liqueur

Traditional Rum Shrub Recipe

Since then, rum shrub has become famous as the drink made by Phillips of Bristol, which is now sadly discontinued. It’s been a traditional tipple in places like Cornwall, where it’s served with even more rum. It has also been rediscovered by trendy bars where its intense sweet flavour is being used to complement mixed drinks and cocktails.

Though I can’t be absolutely certain of which herbs and spices are used in the genuine product, I had a look at traditional Shrub recipes, took an educated guess and came up with a drink that is both similar and delicious. Sweet but not sickly sweet, the fruity flavour of oranges and lemons and rich Autumnal spices comes through beautifully. My version is also a little bit boozier than the original so it’s possible to have it neat without being overwhelmed by sweetness.

Rum Shrub Recipe - a British rum liqueur infused with citrus and spices. It's delicious on its own or in mixed drinks! #liqueur

Traditional Rum Shrub Recipe

Makes approx. 1.5 L

Day One
1 Pint Jamaican Dark Rum
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/8 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest of one lemon
Zest of one orange
1.5″ piece of ginger, sliced
1 Cinnamon stick
1/8 tsp grated Nutmeg
8 Cloves

After the infusion period
2 Tbsp Honey
1 Bottle (750ml) White wine
400g White granulated sugar

Rum Shrub Recipe - a British rum liqueur infused with citrus and spices. It's delicious on its own or in mixed drinks! #liqueur

Infuse the Rum with Spices and Citrus

To make rum shrub, take all the ingredients listed in ‘Day One’ and place them into a glass jar. Store the jar in a dark place for a full week taking it out once a day to give it a gentle shake.

Juice note: The juice quantities are what I got from squeezing the orange and lemon after I zested them. As fruits differ in size and juice quantities please make sure to measure your own juice for consistency’s sake.

Zest note: If you’re not sure what zest is I’ve posted a photo above to show it as the finely grated skin of citrus fruits that excludes the bitter white pith. I have a zesting tool that I use all the time (pictured above next to the lemon) but it’s also possible to use a cheese grater to get the job done.

Spices note: It’s important to use whole spices rather than their powdered versions because you want your liqueur to end up as clear as possible. It’s more difficult to filter out powdered spices than whole ones but if you only have powders and don’t mind some haziness then go ahead and use them.

Rum Shrub Recipe - a British rum liqueur infused with citrus and spices. It's delicious on its own or in mixed drinks! #liqueur

After the One Week Infusion Time

Step 2. Strain the liquid through a muslin or a jelly bag at least twice if not three times. Your aim is to remove as many of the ‘bits’ as possible. Leave your final filtered liquid in a jar to settle for at least a few hours and preferably overnight. If you have a jar that has a spout, like the tea infuser I use, it will make the final step easier.

Step 3. Place the entire bottle of white wine into a saucepan and heat on low until the wine is just warm. Do not bring it to a simmer or you’ll lose alcohol to heat and evaporation. When warm, take the wine off the hob and then stir in the honey and the sugar until it’s completely dissolved. Allow the wine to cool to room temperature.

Wine Note: I’ve used an inexpensive Chardonnay in this recipe but probably any light-flavoured white wine will do.

Rum Shrub Recipe - a British rum liqueur infused with citrus and spices. It's delicious on its own or in mixed drinks! #liqueur

Step 4. Gently pour the infused rum into the sugared wine leaving as much of the sediment in the container as possible. Though not harmful, this residue of fruit and spices will be unsightly and can cloud your liqueur.

Step 5. Pour your Shrub into clean, sterilised bottles, store them in a dark place, and allow them to mature for a week before serving. This week helps to clear the alcohol but also adds mellows out the flavour but if you can’t wait that long go ahead and have a sneaky sample. Due to the fresh juice used in this recipe, try to use your final alcohol within four to six weeks. Refrigeration will also help to prolong the shelf-life.

Shrub is a victorian rum liqueur made with exotic spices. This recipe shows you how to make it with citrus, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, sugar, and dark rum

Homemade Liqueur Recipes

Rum shrub isn’t the only alcoholic treat that you can whip up at home. Here are even more homemade liqueur recipes that you can make easily and inexpensively:

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  1. Hi! Just found this recipe and I have one question: can I store “day 1” in the fridge? I’m worried about the fresh juice in it spoiling…

    1. If it makes you comfortable, then refrigerate it. It’s not necessary though :)

      1. Awesome! Thanks so much. I’m so excited to try the final product. :)

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi, just came across your website looking for shrub recipes …. and this is quite a prospect for my next project. I wanted to mention, though …. about the fruit juice in liqueurs: there would be little need to worry about the fresh juice spoiling the concoction. Once an infusion like this gets over a certain percentage of alcohol (and, no doubt, with the wine and rum it does), there is relatively rare spoilage due to the fruit juice. I have made a home-made sangria using red wine, spiced it myself, added citrus juice (fresh-squeezed and filtered to remove pulp), and fortified it with a very neutral rum and I believe also a some Spanish brandy and though it was a bit cloudy from the o.j., after I bottled it in a well-sealed bottle (similar to yours pictured) having poured boiling water in the bottles first, that sangria stayed in the fridge a looooong time with no trace of spoilage … well over a year until I had mercy on it and used it on a cold late-fall night warmed up with a cinnamon stick garnish. This sounds like such a lovely alternative to very sweet liqueurs as a digestif, and I'd even try it as an aperitif …. and I heartily look forward to making this and hiding it (yeah, sure) for the fall season. Thanks for your detailed information and best wishes. (wendy from NJ)

  3. I have one thing to say: nom nom nom. Okay, that's three things. Guess what I'm buying next trip into town… Thank you!

  4. Anonymous says:

    This recipe looks and sounds amazing. I just finished all the steps in 'Day One' and am looking forward to the end product. And I'm also wondering how you drink it (as a mixer, on the rocks…).

    1. It's strong enough to have on the rocks but you can mix it with rum to have a stronger drink. Let me know how yours turns out?

  5. Mmm, I've loved rum since a holiday in the caribbean introduced me to Appleton's! I don't drink very often but this sounds delicious – the perfect tipple for autumn evenings!

  6. I'm thinking this might be just the thing for winter colds and flu! A non-alcoholic one would be nice too – I don't drink, but the ginger and spices sound lovely together with citrus juice.

  7. This sounds delicious Tamya but as both the farmer and I are on medication which forbids alcohol in any form at the moment, it is also frustrating!

  8. Anonymous says:

    This looks delicious, but how do you drink it: on the rocks? room temperature? with a mixer?