Summer lovin’

Berries are a great addition to the home bar

Master the art of making a shrub and your home bar cocktails will be transformed. Alexa Mazzarello photo

Summer in British Columbia brings with it berries bursting with flavour. They also contain citric acid and sugar, two key elements needed in crafting a cocktail. So why not add freshness and to your home bar by blending berries into your summer drinks?

The easiest way is to simply muddle them, extracting their natural juices and dyes. A simple sour recipe offers a base from which you can build countless variations.

Creating a balance

Bartenders adhere to the Golden Ratio, a simple format that appears over and over again in cocktail recipes. Two parts spirit, one part sour, and one part sweetener. Adding berries to a recipe automatically adds sugar, so that must be factored in to keep the ratio in balance. Remember: you can’t take away sugar, so add it in gradually to achieve the desired balance.

Make a muddle

Try out your muddling by adding fresh raspberries to a Clover Club, a classic cocktail developed around 1915 in Philadelphia. Take local gin (2 oz), pasteurized egg whites (1 oz), simple syrup (0.5 oz), citrus (1 oz), and about six fresh B.C. raspberries.

Add the raspberries to your cocktail shaker and crush them with your muddler. Add ice, and the remaining ingredients. Shake vigorously for 15 seconds to froth the egg whites. At this point taste the cocktail to ensure you have the desired balance between sweet and sour, add a bit more simple syrup if needed. Double strain the cocktail using a Hawthorne and a fine mesh strainer into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with more fresh berries.

Sublime simple syrup

Take your cocktails up a notch by creating your own berry-based simple syrup. Simple syrup contains one part sugar, to one part water. Berries add flavour and colour. This basic recipe is a good place to start.

Add a cup of blueberries to a saucepan and crush with a spoon. Add two cups of water and two cups of white sugar and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat, simmer for five minutes, then remove from heat and allow to cool. Strain through a sieve to remove pulp, and store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Use it in a Tom Collins for a simple, bright, refreshing and now intensely colourful summer cocktail.

Combine gin (2 oz), fresh lemon and lime juices (0.5 oz of each) and blueberry syrup (1 oz) in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake for 15 seconds. Strain cocktail over fresh ice in a Collins glass and top with soda water (3 oz). Garnish with a few extra berries and a fresh sprig of mint.

Start a shrub

Long before refrigeration, there was a technique used to preserve berries and other fruits. In a shrub, berries are cooked with vinegar and sugar in order to preserve the fruit. This technique needs a little care, but is well worth mastering—your drink creations will explode with variety. Experiment with different vinegar and fruit combinations to create the perfect flavour. Adding a little spice to your liquid can elevate your shrubs to a whole new level.

For a strawberry shrub, combine two cups of fruit, two cups of white sugar and two tablespoons of black pepper in a sealed container and refrigerate. After 12 hours, pour contents into a saucepan and heat gently until simmering. Add two cups of balsamic vinegar and bring to a boil. Put into a sterilized jar while still hot and seal— it can be used for up to six months.

The syrup from the shrub is your cocktail base and the preserved fruit becomes your garnish.

—by Justin Taylor

Make Justin Taylor’s Strawberry and Black Pepper Caipirinha.

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