Behind the Bar: Berry Cocktails

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Summer berries are sweet, ripe and—best of all—inexpensive. Traditionally, chefs have been the ones to take advantage of this bounty, but today, with the return of craft bartending and the evolution of more culinary cocktails, mixologists across America are also making use of the bonanza.

When I ran the bar at New York’s historic Rainbow Room, I often looked to the kitchen for inspiration. Our menu featured “dishes with tradition,” and one that intrigued me was Baked Alaska. The classic dessert was topped with a selection of berries macerated in sugar, cognac and Cointreau. That idea was irresistible, and I incorporated the decadent mixture into my Blackberry Julep.

But remember that fresh berries can need a bit of sweetener to bring out their full flavor. Just as a bowl of cut strawberries benefits from a light dusting of sugar, a frozen Strawberry Daiquiri requires a richer simple syrup than the traditional lime version.

Berries pair beautifully with savory ingredients as well. Try blueberries with sage and Absolut Wild Tea Vodka in my Blue Moon Cocktail or strawberry with mint, basil and complex Hendrick’s Gin in my Strawberry Jive. Both are easy to whip up and are real crowd-pleasers.

Now start mixing; you have only about a month left to make these seasonal recipes before the fruit disappears.

Blackberry Julep

Contributed by Dale DeGroff

INGREDIENTS:

  • .75 oz Vodka
  • .75 oz Crème de Mure, blackberry liqueur or blackberry brandy
  • 1 oz Fresh lemon juice
  • .5 oz Simple syrup (one part sugar, one part water)

Garnish: Macerated mixed berries*
Glass: Highball

PREPARATION:
Add all the ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake, and strain into a highball glass filled with crushed ice. Stir until the glass begins to frost. Garnish with some marinated mixed berries.

*Macerated mixed berries

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 qt Mixed fresh berries (blueberries, strawberries and raspberries)
  • .5 oz Brandy
  • 1 oz Cointreau or triple sec
  • .5 cup Sugar

PREPARATION:
Stir together all the ingredients in a small bowl and let stand for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Blue Moon Cocktail

Contributed by Dale DeGroff

INGREDIENTS:

  • .75 oz Fresh lemon juice
  • 4 or 5 Blueberries
  • 1 Fresh sage leaf
  • 1.5 oz Absolut Wild Tea Vodka
  • .75 oz Agave syrup (one part agave nectar, one part water)

Garnish: Blueberry and sage leaf
Glass: Cocktail

PREPARATION:
In a shaker, muddle the lemon juice, blueberries and sage. Add the agave syrup and vodka, and fill with ice. Shake, and double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a large blueberry pierced through the center with the stem of a sage leaf.

Strawberry Jive

Contributed by Dale DeGroff

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 Strawberries
  • 4 Mint leaves
  • 1 Basil leaf
  • .75 oz Simple syrup (one part sugar, one part water)
  • 1.5 oz Hendrick’s Gin
  • 1 oz Fresh orange juice
  • .5 oz Fresh lemon juice

Garnish: Mint sprig
Glass: Rocks

PREPARATION:
In a shaker, muddle the strawberries, mint, basil and simple syrup. Add the remaining ingredients and fill with ice. Shake, and strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a mint sprig.

Master mixologist Dale DeGroff is the author of The Essential Cocktail and The Craft of the Cocktail. He is also a Liquor.com advisor.

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