I’ve had several episodes over the past month of being reasonably sure the English summer is over, and, in the grand tradition of English weather, it keeps subverting my expectations. A miniature mid-September heatwave has hit us (which will doubtless be over by the time I publish this, or even by the time I finish typing this), and it’s making me want to go back to Lillet and elderflower and sparkling wine. It seems appropriate then to make some seasonal cocktails with another fruit which sits on the border of summer and autumn, the blackberry. Around here, blackberry season stretches from June until November, and I remember always being able to pick the berries growing wild in the hedgerows around this time of year.
As they’re a particularly soft and squishy fruit, it’s easy to muddle them and extract tons of flavour from them in cocktails. I’ve stuck to muddling here to make the best use of the fresh fruit, but there are plenty of cocktails out there which use crème de mure, or blackberry liqueur. The most famous of these is the Bramble, created in 1982 by Dick Bradsell at Fred’s Club in Soho, which is a variation on a gin sour with crème de mure in place of some of the simple syrup. I fully plan on making my own blackberry liqueur one of these days – Serious Eats has a fine recipe here – particularly since I hear the Pacific Northwest, where I’ll be living soon, is practically overrun by blackberries every summer, to the point where it’s classed as a ‘noxious weed.’
First up, then, a fresh, summer, super easy to make drink, the Blackberry Gimlet, which takes the classic gimlet recipe and simply adds blackberries for a twist. This drink is like adult Ribena, which, for those who didn’t grow up in England, is a blackcurrant cordial commonly given to kids, and it’s the best drink ever. It’s sweet, tart, and is one of those glorious drinks which goes down incredibly easily and then punches you in the face about an hour later – a perfect late summer sip. This recipe is courtesy of Aviation Gin, although I will admit to not making it with Aviation. This time. Fine straining this drink through a sieve is slightly time-consuming but essential – the gimlet is an elegant drink and does not lend itself to a heap of squashed blackberries at the bottom.
2 oz gin
3/4 oz lime juice
3/4 oz simple syrup
Muddle blackberries with simple syrup in a mixing glass. Add gin and lime juice and shake with ice. Fine strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Next up, something a bit more autumnal, with rye and my beloved Averna, which I’m trying to use to its fullest extent at the moment. The base of blackberry and lime is still there, but this is a much more complex drink, with the whiskey and amaro adding spicy, bitter, chocolatey overtones. Unlike with the gimlet, this is a true smash, and in its rough and ready style, it can handle some blackberry mush floating around, so no need to deploy the sieve. Thanks to Imbibe for the recipe.
1 1/2 oz rye whiskey
1/2 oz Amaro Averna
1/4 oz simple syrup
1/4 oz fresh lime juice
Muddle blackberries with the simple syrup in the bottom of an old-fashioned glass. Add in the rye, Averna, and lime juice. Fill the glass with ice and stir. Garnish with fresh berries.