In late Summer, depending on where you live, you’ll start to see blackberries ripening on brambles around you. For me growing up, this was a sure sign that Summer was drawing to a close and that the next school year was about to begin, but it was also a sign that family walks and days out would involve bags full of jars and tupperware, and my Grandad’s old walking stick, because it had a hooked top that was perfect for yanking larger branches down into the reach of smaller hands.
On one memorable trip, we cycled out to a small village near where I grew up, locked our bikes up in a hedge, and then scrambled over a style and through a few fields to amazing banks of blackberry bushes. While we were there, being watched lazily by intrigued but anxious cows, my sister spotted sloes high up in a nearby tree. There was a moat of stinging nettles and barbed wire surrounding it, but after a failed attempt at a human pyramid (my Mum and I collapsed in giggles) we were able to help Jen get over a fence and into the tree. Once up there, she grabbed handfuls of sloes and shook the branches and we gathered up all that we could.
So it felt like the rebirth of a lovely tradition last Summer when, thanks to the amazing hot weather that the UK had (yay, global warming?) the blackberries burst into season early. C (my girlfriend) and I took the chance, and went out pretty regularly, either with big pans from our kitchen or old tupperware, reaching into bramble bushes all over our local patch of heathland, and checking out the possibilities for sloes and damsons everywhere.
If you’ve seen the recipe on making Blackberry Whisky you’ll know what we did with last year’s haul of fruit – for free, and only a little bit of effort (including more than a few nettle stings).
It’s had time to mature, and now we’re ready to present to you our own recipe for a Blackberry Old Fashioned, that staple of whisky-based cocktails with a fruity twist.
A regular old-fashioned would have Bourbon, with its characteristic sour edge. The blackberry whisky is a fair bit sweeter, so you need to balance that out. If you’re experienced at making Old Fashioneds, add less of the sugar syrup than you normally would and double the bitters.
- Blackberry Whisky
- Bitters (dealer’s choice)
- Simple sugar syrup
- First, make your sugar syrup – In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring equal parts cold water and sugar to a boil. Reduce the heat and stir constantly until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. This should take approximately 3 to 5 minutes. Remember – the longer you boil it, the thicker the syrup will be when it’s cooled. Leave it aside until cool.
- In a glass, mix 50ml blackberry whisky with 20 ml sugar syrup. Add a generous teaspoon of bitters. The best ones for this recipe will have a genuinely bitter edge. We tried it with Rhubarb bitters and Cardamom bitters, and have so far been fighting over who gets the Cardamom. Celery and Walnut bitters would definitely be worth trying, as this would be easy to make too sweet!
- Add ice, stir and enjoy.