McClary Bros. Mixes Drinking Vinegars For Revolutionary Cocktails


The hot new word in cocktails? “Shrubs.” If your first thought is of squat topiaries instead of delicious mixers, you’re not alone. But Jess McClary of Detroit’s McClary Bros. is changing all that.

Three hundred years ago, shrubs were all the rage, and what’s old is new again. “Shrubs” is the common name for drinking vinegars — mixers that date back to colonial America.

McClary came across mentions of these long-lost mixers in her research on food preservation. No recipes exist, but she recreated them with organic apple cider vinegar, cane sugar and fresh, seasonal flavors. Today, she bills herself as a “Shrubbist Extraordinaire,” and she’s shipping drinking vinegars across the country from McClary Bros.’ home base in Detroit.

The vinegars are versatile, and it’s all in the mixing. McClary Bros. makes both drinking and culinary vinegars, so what’s good on a salad could be even better in a cocktail. The beet-and-carrot flavor, for example, adds an earthy dash to a homemade soda, serves as a great dressing for a salad and goes marvelously with tequila.

The flavor combinations go far beyond a simple tonic. “This time of year, I like to pour an apple pie bourbon shrub or a beet & carrot gin shrub,” says McClary. “Lately, I’ve been really partial to rye whiskey, so I’ve been making cherry basil rye shrubs.”

Shrub Recipes

Cherry Basil Rye Shrub
¼ oz McClary Bros. Basil Drinking Vinegar
¾ oz McClary Bros. Cherry Drinking Vinegar
1 ½ oz rye whiskey
1 ½ oz sparkling water

Combine ingredients in a lowball glass over ice. Stir and garnish with lemon peel twist (optional).

Purple Gang Pop
1 ½ oz silver tequila
1 oz McClary Bros. Beet & Carrot Drinking Vinegar
1 ½ oz sparkling water
½ oz fresh lime juice

Combine ingredients in a lowball glass over ice. Stir and garnish with lime.

Detroit is home to a fast-growing scene of food innovators and small businesses, which has helped McClary Bros. find a foothold in the market. “Making drinking vinegars is far from ordinary — in a place like Detroit, it’s right at home.”

McClary Bros.
Tasting Room:
22801 Woodward Ave
Ferndale, MI