Herbal Oxymel Tonic

making oxymel at home

Do you ever feel like you’re that one friend who is late to the party?

Yeah, I’m kind of in that boat. Here in China, every US trends we get is delayed by about 3-4 months. By the time that you’re tired of reading Buzzfeed listicles about avocado toast, negronis, or ramen burgers, they’re still the next big thing in Shanghai. So yes, drinking vinegars – otherwise known as shrubs – were so 2016. But I’m just discovering them now. They’re fizzy, and tart, and brimming with just the right amount of pungency. And they’re so much easier to make than kombucha.

I know shrubs aren’t really fermented, but there’s something super appealing about these witchy, herbal tonics. It’s been really dreary in Shanghai the last few weeks, too cold to leave the house. So last week, I took my obsession with shrubs one step further, and started a batch of oxymel.

Oxymel is like a drinking vinegar, but cooler. It’s like the daddy of shrubs, nay, the granddaddy of shrubs, because according to Wikipedia, it ancient Roman and Greek poets drank it for inspiration. Then, in Medieval Times, it was medicinal. Then, it went out of style (my theory? people just moved on to beer).

The foundation of oxymel is super simple:

oxy (vinegar) + mel (honey) + herbs + time.

My mom recently gave me a comically large jug of honey to take back to Shanghai (it was 3L, weighed a solid 8kg and I barely made it through customs and security), so I figured I’d put it to use. (If anyone else has suggestions for what to do with a jug-full of honey, please tell me). This recipe was inspired by the Bon Appetit article on Oxymel and the Scarborough Fair cocktail in a blog post on Food52. Once I had my honey and vinegar,  I went to the Avocado Lady and got all the aromatics she had – which were rosemary, thyme, and ginger. And so it was time to make oxymel:

oxymel ingredients


This is simple syrup turned on its head - use in cocktails, marinades, or to spice up salad dressings

Prep Time 10 minutes


  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup unfiltered honey


  • rosemary
  • thyme
  • ginger
  • lemon peel


  1. Wash, rinse, and dry a small glass jar (an 8oz or a pint sized jar would be be perfect)

  2. Wash and dry the herbs you are adding. I used the combination above in my oxymel, but Bon Appetit recommends any combination or the ones above, garlic, chamomile, sage, etc.. 

  3. Pack the herbs into the bottom of the jar. Add the vinegar and honey on top of the herbs and close the jar. If the honey isn't fully mixed when added, it will dissolve on its own in a few hours. 

  4. Store in a cool, dark location. Shake to stir occasionally. The oxymel will be ready in two weeks. 


Also published on Medium.

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