Hello. It’s me. No, not Adele. But I understand if you’re wondering who Me is after so long. It’s the tardy extraslaw blogger circling back after a long walk from his post. Make that posts. I’m here to wish you Happy Summer! And since we’re together again, how about I make us a celebratory cocktail? We should toast the ACTUAL most wonderful time of the year, so I’m thinking Blackberry Manhattans are fitting. First I need to pick some blackberries. Want to help?
I say forget about huckleberry friends. They’re a dodgy lot. True friends will step into the blackberry patch with you. If you’re paying attention right now, there are wild blackberry brambles everywhere, dotted red and purple. Free berries for the picking. And while it’s true fantastically large cultivated ones are an easy get, the wild ones absolutely taste better. More concentrated, complex flavor. Almost floral. Hey, let’s step off the path here. You gotta lean in to pick them. It’ll only take a couple of minutes. Even faster with a friend!
Fresh Blackberry Syrup
Before I make our Manhattans I need to whip up a batch of fresh blackberry syrup. This is a no cook recipe, perfect for these hot days. The bright berry flavor is great in lots of other things besides cocktails. I usually make double or triple batches.
Makes about 1/4 cup, enough for 4 to 5 Blackberry Manhattans
- 3 ounces blackberries*
- 2–3 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Water, as needed
*3 ounces of blackberries equals about 12–15 large cultivated berries, or about ⅔ cup of wild berries.
- Combine the blackberries, sugar, and lemon juice in a measuring cup or bowl. Use a muddler, or some sort of mashing implement, to crush the blackberries until most of the fruitlets* are broken.
- Use a wooden spoon to rub the mixture through a sturdy wire mesh strainer. Press firmly but don’t over do it—crushing too many seeds makes the syrup bitter. If using wild berries instead of cultivated, the mixture will be drier with a lot of solids remaining in the strainer. If so, sprinkle with 2 or 3 tablespoons of water and mash some more. Your aim is to have at least ¼ cup of fresh blackberry syrup.
- Keep unused blackberry syrup in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or store it in the freezer for up to a year. Frozen blackberry syrup stays slushy, so it’s easy to dip out as needed.
*Fruitlets! Actual term for the tiny spheres that make up a blackberry or raspberry. The things we learn here.
Other Ways with Blackberry Syrup
Fresh blackberry syrup spikes a dazzling flavor (and color!) to club soda | Make scintillating summer spritzers! Slip a little syrup into your house white wine, top with a splash of seltzer | Add fresh blackberry syrup to Champagne or fizzy summer wines like vinho verde or prosecco. Name it Country Kir Royale | A dash in tequila with a squeeze of lime = Blackberry margarita! | Blackberry vinaigrette tastes and looks amazing on salad greens. Mix 2 tablespoons blackberry syrup with ¼ cup oil, 2 teaspoons vinegar, 1 tablespoon dijon mustard, and your favorite seasonings.
And now, for our drink. Being a bourbon and rye aficionado with ample options in the liquor chest, I typically dispatch a second grade whiskey for cocktails incorporating more than ice. I’d say this is that kind of drink. Variations on this cocktail are boundless. For a brighter, more floral version, trade out whisky for gin. Refreshing! Garnish-wise, orange or lime are fine replacements for lemon. Finally, fresh mint would not be out of place in this lovely concoction.
Makes 2 cocktails
- 4 ounces Bourbon or rye
- 2 ounces sweet vermouth
- 3 dashes Angostura or orange bitters
- 4–6 teaspoons Fresh Blackberry Syrup, to taste
- Lemon peel
- Whole blackberries for garnish
- Combine the Bourbon, vermouth, bitters, and blackberry syrup in a lidded jar or cocktail shaker. Drop in 3 or 4 ice cubes, cover, and shake vigorously until most of the ice has broken into bits.
- Divide the Blackberry Manhattans between two cocktail glasses filled with ice.
- To finish, twist the lemon peel over the glass, rub it around the rim, and drop it in. Plop a couple of fresh blackberries on top then raise your glass.
A toast to the graces of summer. And to blackberry friends. Cheers!