Don Morton is the man behind the brand Shrub District. He develops the recipes, brews and bottles the batches, slings the bottles at the farmers markets, and mixes up shrub based cocktails on the daily. When he’s not wearing his Shrub District hat, he’s tending bar at Eat the Rich in Shaw, DC. We recently had the pleasure of catching up with Don at a pop-up shrub tasting at our headquarters in Beltsville, MD.
Don grew up in Rockville, MD, by way of Texas. His first real interest in food and drink came while studying abroad in Italy. In addition to exploring the open air markets every week and trying all sorts of new foods, Don would also would pick up specialty liquors to try. He had caught the bartending bug, geeking out on reddit over the resurgence of classic cocktails. Don created his first batch of shrub around this time, a pineapple shrub, to appease his now sister-in-law with her favorite drink called a Monday Night.
After graduating from college Don explored the career path of a sommelier, but decided to stick with his degree and entered a career in public policy. Don worked in policy for the Alliance of American Manufacturing, a job where he advocated for increasing the number of manufacturing jobs in the US. Don decided that he could pair his love of classic cocktails with his passion for advocating for US manufacturing jobs by starting a company that would eventually lead to actually creating jobs. He officially launched Shrub District in May 2015.
Shrub is a cocktail vinegar made from fruit, spices, and vinegar. Shrub is currently in a state of revival - before refrigeration, farmers used vinegar to preserve excess fruit during harvest. Like the word alcohol itself, the term “shrub” originated in the Middle East. The process for making shrub is relatively simple, once you have developed a solid recipe. The first step in making shrub is to macerate the fruit in a vinegar solution for at minimum 3 days and up to one week. Then, the fruit and vinegar is strained and a bit of sugar is added to balance the flavor. Don spent several months researching and developing this process so that he could make a delicious, flavorful, high-quality product, without having to compromise flavor by heating the product to make it stable.
Currently Shrub District has 4 flavors: Lime, Strawberry Dill, Just Grapefruit, and Pineapple Allspice, all of which are available on fromthefarmer.com. If you live in the District and are looking for shrubtails on-demand, you can stop by Kangaroo Boxing Club for their Knockout Punch or Lupo Verde for their Strawberry Dill Spritz - both of which are made with Shrub District.
What’s next for Shrub District? Seasonal flavors like blueberry basil for the summer, apple nutmeg for the fall, and cranberry juniper for the holiday season. Also coming soon will be a canned shrub-based soda called “Shrubbles” and a Bloody Mary "booster" to help make your Mary’s complex without the laundry list of ingredients the drink typically requires. We’re excited for what is to come from this small local producer!