Modern twist for an old English tipple

Going back around 350 years, a shrub was an English drink made from steeping fruit and herbs in vinegar. The original idea was to preserve the fruit for eating at a later date, but the vinegar retained the flavours and this leftover product, when mixed with water, became a popular drink, first mentioned in 1747 in the Gentleman’s Magazine, London.

During colonial times shrubs became popular in the US and survived longer there due to the Prohibition. The vinegar has a kick to it similar to that first shot of hard liquor and the flavours were pretty intense so it became a substitute for the banned alcohol during the 1920’s and early 30’s.

Mustafa Mahmud founded /shrb in 2017 as he felt there was a need for a decent soft drink that wasn’t heavily sugared. Inspired by the Prohibition era, Mustafa’s drinks are made by steeping raw ingredients in apple cider vinegar for several days to capture their original flavour, water is added plus a light touch of fizz to create the perfect drink with that famous Prohibition kick at the end.

This leads on to the choice of logo. Mustafa chose an illustration of a donkey for the /shrb brand, a nod to the kick in the drink, which needs to be sipped slowly to enjoy the full flavours.

/shrb is currently available in four flavours, orange ginger, lime juniper, apple cinnamon and original. Happy with the fruit flavours, Mustafa turned his attention to non-alcoholic beer and wine, with the intention of producing something that had original flavours and compared in quality and taste to the alcoholic versions.

The resulting /shrb bier is unfermented but with zero alcohol. It has the depth and complexity of a craft beer and is sold currently in the Walthamstow area, London, on trial, to be rolled out in early 2020. Sampling has been carried out in stores, wine bars and craft beer shops and feedback has been very positive. “Generally, when you take out the alcohol from a drink you lose the flavour but /shrb bier keeps all the dimensions of a craft IPA,” states Mustafa, “we are really pleased with the result.”

Origins of the word ‘shrub’ lies in the Arabic word ‘sharāb’ which means ‘drink’. And Mustafa has given this name to his premium, non-alcoholic wine-alternative. Modelled on natural wine so with no sulphites, sharāb is unfermented using grapes and barrel aged, as opposed to alternative low alcohol wines where the alcohol is evaporated after production. Proud to say this is a world first, plans are underway to launch the wine in UK in early 2020.

For the labels, Mustafa used to re-create his vision and project the brand to its best advantage. “I did quite a bit of research for label suppliers and found to be competitive with excellent customer service and quality even with a small print run,” explained Mustafa. “The resulting labels are really high quality and we have had support throughout the whole process.”

Mustafa originally selected pure cotton labels for /shrb, a premium stock usually used by high-end spirit brands. All four label designs were printed in the same run, a perfect use of digital label printing and for the multi-versioned labels for export that came later.

For the sharāb label, Mustafa wanted to ensure the label would survive immersion in an ice bucket but still look premium. For this used a specialist material with lamination behind the facestock and then added hot foil stamping.

“ are proud to support businesses such as Shrb Drinks. Passion and imagination are taking Mustafa and his team to new heights in this very interesting and growing area of the drinks industry,” comments Richard White at

For a selection of premium non-alcoholic drinks for any occasion, it’s worth seeking out both /shrb and sharāb. If there isn’t a local supplier near you, you can order online but hopefully the range will be more readily available via retail outlets later in the year.