The story behind the Blackberry Bourbon
Ever since I was a broke graduate student, I’ve been on a mission to acquire as much free food as possible. I think that’s pretty standard college student behavior – seeking out free pizza and beer. My cohorts and I took it a step further though. We weren’t satisfied with the occasional (mediocre at best) pizza; we’d grown up since our undergraduate days. Our palates had advanced. We wanted fresh nettles and ramps, earthy morels, and wild blueberries. So we went into the woods and found them.
One of us worked at the UMass vegetable farm, so at harvest time we filled (literally) our cars with corn, eggplant, and squash. One of our favorite professors oversaw the university orchard and led u-pick tours through the various blocks of weird and wonderful heirloom and hybrid apples. My research was on pollinators of cranberry, so I spent my summers on cranberry bogs on the Cape and came back to campus in the fall loaded up with a cooler of Quahogs on ice and a trunkful of cranberries.
All this to say, I’ve become a full-fledged forager.
Insofar as possible, I like to take advantage of what the earth is offering. Here in California, in midsummer, it offers blackberries. Our backyard is covered in them: nasty thorny invasive weedy Himalayan blackberries. As much as I hate the plant for its invasive tendencies and prickly nature, I cannot hate the fruit.
They are a bit seedy for my liking though, so I try to make use of just the pulp or juice, in a coulis or juice for seltzer. One day I whispered to myself aloud while picking: I’m dumping some in bourbon; I bet that won’t taste bad. And it didn’t!
Blackberry Bourbon Fizz
A week or two ahead:
Fill any size jar with rinsed blackberries, picked clean of any bugs and leaves (a quart or pint size will do, depending how much blackberry bourbon you’d like to make). Top jar off with bourbon (nothing fancy; whatever kind you like drinking). Cover and let sit at room temperature for one to two weeks. We let ours go two but we tasted it after one and didn’t notice much difference in berry-ness with the extra week. After a couple weeks, dump berries into a fine sieve over a bowl; gently press berries with a rubber spatula to extract as much bourbon as possible. Store blackberry bourbon in clean jar.
- 3 shots of blackberry bourbon
- juice of 1 large meyer lemon or 2 regular lemons
- 12 0unces of ginger beer or ginger ale
Drop 4-5 large ice cubes into a cocktail shaker. Add bourbon and lemon juice; shake vigorously. Strain and divide between two glasses. Add fresh ice to glasses then top each with 6 oz ginger ale. Gently stir to combine and add a sprig of mint and/or slice of lemon if desired.
First we did Blueberry and Jalapeño infusions. Now these. What’s your favorite fruit to marry to booze? Drop us a line, we’d love some ideas.