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& dates we celebrate

Babylon 2500 BC

Dates, it's all about the dates. How to preserve the excess crop from rotting. The solution? Tip them into a barrel of vinegar where the yeasts and mould can't survive. Leave them for a few months and the magic happens, the sugar in the dates infuses the vinegar and creates a rich sweet, sour syrup. A flavour to hide the brackish nature of desert water, and acidic enough to kill any pathogens that may be lurking in it. The perfect combination of style, form and function. They call this elixir a sharab - literally, a drink - from whence our...

Judaea 30 AD

Jesus Christ is crucified. The gospels of Matthew, Mark and John all record him being given vinegar to drink on the cross by a Roman legionnaire; taking it, he fulfils the prophesy in Psalm 69:21 and tastes the wares of the early master shrubbers. The Romans had caught on to the practical applications of sharab, and every legionnaire went on campaign with a gourd of it on their belt. Their version was a liquid called Posca, and with it, the army could make almost any water drinkable. Words and teachings are spreading fast, and the master shrubbers spread with them.

The Mediterranean Sea 900 AD

Scurvy, the scourge of sailors for millennia. Vitamin C, the scourge of scurvy. As the master shrubbers knew, you can pack a lot of Vitamin C into a shrub, it doesn't take up much space, makes the water taste good. And whilst the science will not come to the fore until much later in maritime history, shrubs are a staple of many a seafaring vessel plying its trade across the waters of the Mediterrannean Sea, and will still be being consumed by sailors a millennium later.

Istanbul 1570 AD

Ottoman Sultan Murad III receives a letter from a female ruler of a tiny country on the edge of Europe he has never heard of. She seeks an alliance against their common enemy, Rome and the papacy. Murad responds to this Sultana Isabel, as he calls her, and it is the beginning of a cultural and trading relationship that lasts until 1922 when the Ottoman Empire finally falls. Elizabeth I (Sultana Isabel)'s courtiers return from Istanbul speaking of being served the finest drinks at court, exquisite in their complexity, intoxicating in every way bar the absence of alcohol. All the...

London to Glasgow 1800 AD

What's your poison? If you are dandying about in London Town, you may well be frequenting taverns serving rum, brandy or smuggled Genever, mixed with a citrus shrub of some dsescription. Indeed, in some parts of England, the drink is served pre-blended with spirits, and perhaps a little confusingly, still called a shrub. North of the border, hot on the heels of Wesley preaching of the sins of alcohol the first official temperance society is founded - they too singing the virtues of the shrub, theirs, as the Ottoman court's, boasting no alcohol. The master shrubbers have always been ambivalent...

Suffolk, England 2020 AD

Nonsuch, the latest incarnation of this epicurean shape-shifter is born. The brainchild of a dynastical cyder and vinegar-making family member, obsessed with looking for new drinking experiences as tastes and fashions change. Re-imagining shrubs for 21st century audiences, and addressing such preoccupations as alcohol consumption, ingredients and authenticity. On their own, Nonsuch Shrubs have the zing of an alcoholic drink and can elevate cocktails to an extra dimension. Delivering simple serves with a rewarding and complex finish, the master shrubbers' journey continues.