Crafting Flavors with Honey: An Interview with the Creative Mind Behind Mother Shrub

Salted Honey

Meredyth Archer is the type of person who loves to feed people, always having plenty of food and beverages on hand for household gatherings. During her childhood in West Virginia, whenever she was sick she would stay with her grandmother, who was into folk medicine. Vinegar and honey helped when they had a cold, so Archer grew up with that knowledge — then she stumbled onto shrubs.

Curiosity about shrubs combined with her vintage cookbook collection led to the beginnings of Mother Shrub. With entrepreneurial knowledge and a little coaxing from friends, she started introducing people to the non-alcoholic mixer for spritzes, elixirs and cocktails. Archer spoke to us about the long journey of Mother Shrub, why she uses honey in three of her flavors and who is using Mother Shrub the most in the market.

National Honey Board (NHB): The flavors in the three shrubs where you use honey seem to be a natural combination.
Archer: That tart and sweet — I was doing research and that’s as old as can be. I think the word for that is oxymel instead of shrub. That can be a lot of different things just like shrubs, a sweet, a sour, a herb, a fruit combination and that's probably what my honey shrubs are more like.

NHB: What are the shrubs being used for most? Elixirs, cocktails, mocktails?
Archer: Mocktails and cocktails. I’ve noticed a big shift in people who want a sugar alternative. Honey is natural, so they associate that with drinking better, the ‘healthier’ cocktail or mocktails being so popular. What’s so great about shrubs is you can use an ounce of shrub, top it with sparkling water and a garnish, give it a stir and you’ve got a great, easy non-alcoholic drink. With the honey added into that, that makes it an option that you can control.

NHB: Did you experiment with a lot of flavor combinations?
Archer: I did experiment, and I definitely wanted to stick with basic flavors that were familiar so people would not be intimidated to try them at home. My goal has been to try to take that fear or intimidation away for people to try something new and get curious and experimental.

NHB: And you have Salted Honey, Carrot Thyme and Blood Orange Chili Pepper mixers with honey.
Archer: I made the Salted Honey as an ode to my grandmother. The salt that I use does a couple of things. It takes the edge off the vinegar and can also bring up the flavor in the honey. I chose a wildflower honey for that because I felt that was a stronger taste that could hold up to the vinegar.

For the Carrot Thyme, honey just seems to go with carrots and thyme. It sounded like a delicious side dish. I started working on that flavor with a local botanical garden. They wanted a spring, sweet and savory mocktail option to serve at a fundraiser. Carrot Thyme went into their botanical garden theme with flowers and bees and pollinators. I use a clover honey for that — it’s a little milder and it lets the carrot and the thyme to go through. That one is great for a seltzer or you can drizzle it onto a salad.

Blood Orange Chili Pepper is a newer flavor. I haven’t launched that yet: I’m working on it now. I was trying to come up with a way to use hot honey in a shrub. I like the combo of the orange with the honey and the peppers. That is a blend of clover and wildflower honeys.

NHB: Are there any other honey-sweetened Mother Shrub products in the works?
Archer: I think people do care what’s in their food — let’s just stick to the basics and eat natural products. I will probably think about some other options there, maybe a fire cider or a peach. Honey is an easy sweetener for my product.