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11.30.10 by  

Cocktail Talk with Andrew Noye

We gave the Blackberry Farm mixologist a topic — berry-based drinks don’t have to be fruity — and asked him to discuss. Part 2 of a 5-part mixology series on using Mother Nature’s finest more innovatively. Go ahead, read amongst yourselves.

served raw: how are you using berries innovatively — and what impact do they have on flavor?

What the cosmo should've been when it was first invented. Luckily, it's never to late too change. Photo: Blackberry Far

andrew noye: Berries can be a hard thing to work with, especially since they can really vary in flavor from one day to another and even one piece of fruit to the next. This is what really makes berries fun, especially if you’re just eating them one at a time. The main thing that we use berries for at Blackberry Farm, other than turning them into preserves, is to dry them and use the dried fruit to make an infused vodka.

The berry of choice is, of course, the blackberry. They’re tough fresh in a drink — they have some sweetness but are usually pretty tart and can be woody because of the seeds, depending on where they’re from. We cheat a touch when we make infusions. We take a pint of fresh berries — IQF [individually quick frozen] out of season — and dry them for a day at 200 degrees in the oven. You can use a food dehydrator, but usually the berries will ooze and leak liquid, which makes a huge mess in a dehydrator and isn’t fun to clean up no matter how many cocktails you have while doing so.

Once the berries are dried, we place them in a large container that’s capable of holding 2 liters of liquid. We then add 1 liter of raspberry vodka. Yes, raspberry vodka. I’ll explain why in a moment. I seal the container up and let it sit in the dark for about two weeks. Every other day give it a good shake. After two weeks, strain off the berries if you like or keep them. If you’re planning to put the vodka back in the bottle I’d remove them — there won’t be enough room for it all. Now you don’t have to wait two weeks to use it, but it will taste and look the best after at least a week. Patience is a virtue I am told.

So, why raspberry vodka if we’re making a blackberry-infused vodka? Well, as I said before I cheat a little. We used to do this with straight unflavored vodka, but found that we got a beautifully colored, tart-tasting vodka. It really did not have much sweetness to it at all and we were having to put more simple syrup in the drinks. This made them feel sugary which wasn’t the point. We now use Stoli Raspberry. I find that it’s one of the best raspberry-flavored vodkas for the money. It’s slightly sweet, very aromatic but at the same time not thick and sugary. When you infuse the berries you get an awesome color, balanced sweetness and tartness, and a little richer mouth feel, but not heavy. In a cocktail, berries will always add tart, color and mouth feel, especially if you make an old-school cobbler.

if you don’t like a sweet drink, how can you use berries to enhance the flavor profile and/or create balance?
A great way to accomplish this is to purée the fruit in a blender, strain out the seeds, add a tablespoon of sugar per pint of fruit and cook it in a pan just till it starts to through a good amount of steam. No need to boil it. Cool quickly and add this to your punch. What you’ve done is brought out more of the fruit flavors, cooked down some of the acid and intensified the sweetness. You should get the most balance of flavors this way. Sometimes with fresh berries, especially strawberries, there can be a lot of acid. Cooking them slightly will help cut that down.

berry liqueurs, infusions, syrups … how can you use them in fresh new ways?

The newest, most thoughtful way of using such things is to push ourselves to not just add them to innocuous bubbly wine as a new form of mimosa or to even add them to a clear spirit and make the next big “tini” sensation. Instead, try making a brandy-based cocktail or something using another aged spirit — berries like dark spirits as well as vodka.

what is your favorite or most innovative signature flight of berry cocktails?

I’d have to say that our most popular berry cocktail is the Blackberry Bumpkin. Now, I didn’t come up with this cocktail. I simply improved it and renamed it. Originally, it was the Blackberry Cosmopolitan. But being that we’re in the middle of nowhere Bumpkin fits better. It uses the blackberry-infused vodka from above and has all the other makings of a Cosmo with a bit of Pama to round things out. Yes, I know this goes against what I was talking about with the previous question. But I will tell you what, once someone tries one, they drink at least one more. The thing to remember is that being new, inventive and cutting-edge also means being lonely, ridiculed and most often, misunderstood. Yet, someone has to push the envelope or we will all be slaves to whatever the next flavored rum or vodka is that comes out next week and the week after and the week after and so on, until we don’t know what fresh flavors are like.

Blackberry Bumpkin

Andrew Noye’s farm-fresh modernization of the cosmopolitan.

  • 1 ½ ounces blackberry-infused vodka (see recipe)
  • ¾ ounce Pama Pomegranate Liqueur
  • ¾ ounce Cointreau
  • Squeeze fresh lime juice
  • ½ ounce cranberry juice
  1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing tin with ice. Shake well and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a fresh blackberry.

Blackberry-Infused Vodka

  1. Dry fresh blackberries in low oven overnight on a sheet of parchment paper. Add to raspberry vodka and let infuse for 14 days.