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Behind the Bar: Berry Cocktails

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


  • .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


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


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


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


  • .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


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


  • 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


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 advisor.