Friday, December 15 , 2017, 4:13 pm | Smoke 72º


Laurie Jervis: Solvang’s Wandering Dog Wine Bar Markets Own Line of Shrubs

​Popular vinegar-and-fruit-based drink packs a bite with a touch of sweet

Solvang’s Wandering Dog Wine Bar, family owned and operated and popular with both tourists and locals alike, last year released its own shrub label, Broken Clock Vinegar Works.

A shrub is a vinegar-and-fruit-based drink, traditionally termed a “drinking vinegar,” first made popular in 15th century England.

Today, the word shrub refers both to the aforementioned cocktail, made by mixing a vinegar-based syrup with spirits, water or carbonated water, and to the fruit-sweetened, vinegar-based syrup from which said cocktail is made.

In bygone years, that syrup was known as drinking vinegar.

The concentrate has surged in popularity in bars across the nation, with websites and mixology magazines featuring do-it-yourself shrub recipes.

Wandering Dog released its Broken Clock Vinegar Works lineup at the Taste of ​Solvang last March, said Charles “CT” Williams, co-owner of the bar with his parents, Susan and Jack, and his wife, Jody.

“Our debut got a great response,” he told me.

The shrubs’ combination of tart and sweet flavors were a big hit during Solvang’s hot summer months.

The Broken Clock bottle labels proclaim that the elixir “Drinking Vinegar” is good “For Any Time of Day.”

It was that sage line that inspired Jody and CT — struggling to come up with a clever name for their product — to choose Broken Clock.

Why? Because “a broken clock is still correct two times every day,” CT Williams recalled with a chuckle.

The Strawberry Ginger shrub is the most popular in the lineup, according to Wandering Dog co-owner Charles “CT” Williams. Wandering Dog bottled its third release of this flavor late last year. Click to view larger
The Strawberry Ginger shrub is the most popular in the lineup, according to Wandering Dog co-owner Charles “CT” Williams. Wandering Dog bottled its third release of this flavor late last year. (Jody Williams photo)

The Broken Clock Vinegar Works debut lineup included Blueberry Vanilla (Williams’ favorite, “because it’s so aromatic”), Strawberry Ginger, Apple Clove and Tangerine Lavender.

Newer flavors will be Prickly Pear, Kiwi, Peach Jalapeno and Spicy Margarita. When Williams and I spoke during mid December, he anticipated releasing the first of those — prickly pear — in January. 

Each batch fills about 150 bottles, and each 50-milliliter bottle contains enough for about 17 “mini” cocktails, he said. The bottles are $22 each.

Broken Clock utilizes fresh fruits that undergo a process called IQF, or individually quick frozen, Williams said. “Only two hours pass between when the fruit is picked and when it’s frozen” for future use, he said.

The shrubs crafted by Williams and his bar staff follow a 4-to-1 ratio: 2 ounces of spirits, 2 ounces of mixer and 1 ounce of the desired Broken Clock solution, he said.

A  Wandering Dog Shrubarita drink. Click to view larger
A Wandering Dog Shrubarita drink.  (Jody Williams photo)

Since Broken Clock’s debut last year, the family has refined the ingredients to utilize less sugar and more fruit, Williams said.

The current releases have “a color that really pops,” which resulted from some accidental aging: The compound underwent “a really extended maceration when I was recovering from knee surgery last summer” and could not get around well enough to work on the blend, he recalled.

Williams favors champagne vinegar over apple cider vinegar, as the former allows the fruit to come through and is mellower than the latter.

Long hailed as digestive (that which boosts human digestion), a shrub drink packs natural acidity and nutrients from the high-grade fruit and the acid from the vinegar.

Broken Clock Vinegar Works now represents about 15 percent of Wandering Dog’s total sales, Williams said.

— Laurie Jervis blogs about wine at, tweets at @lauriejervis and can be reached via [email protected]. The opinions expressed are her own.

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