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Raspberry Cocktails

Columbia Cocktail

Columbia Cocktail

There are so many ways to use fruit in cocktails. Muddling fresh produce may be the easiest, but you can also freeze it for use off-season. More traditional options include preserving fruit as jams, syrups, shrubs or even liqueurs. We've been busy this summer with all of nature's bounty, and we'll be sharing some of our exploits in the coming months. Today, let's talk about raspberry syrup.

Making a syrup from raspberries is easy enough. The simplest recipe follows a basic formula of one part fruit juice with one part sugar. However, we wanted to take an approach that may seem a little unorthodox. According to the Jerry Thomas Bartenders Guide first published in 1862, it's better to add another step to the process. Fermenting the fruit juice for several days through natural processes (including the unrestricted growth of microbes such as yeast and bacteria) allows the fruit to break down as the juice separates from the flesh. A byproduct of letting nature to do some of the work for you is an increase in acidity as some of the sugar present in the berries is consumed. This intensifies the flavor and supposedly helps to prevent the juice from gelling.

Raspberries FermentingMake Fermented Raspberry Syrup
We washed our raspberries and mashed them in the jars leaving plenty of head space, then capped the jars with paper towels to allow gasses to escape and prevent critters from going in. After 24 hours the ruby-red juice began to separate to the bottom and it was obvious we had some bubbling activity at the top. Here's the thing: There's really no telling what other creepy crawlies were living on (or in) our berries, so we only let this continue for a couple of days.

After the brief fermentation, you need to pour off the juice and strain it through a paper towel to filter out any solids. Then, measure the volume and combined the juice with an equal amount of sugar in a sauce pan and turn on the heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar and simmer the syrup for 10 minutes. This will kill any leftover microbes and allow your clean syrup to be safely bottled. The flavor is absolutely amazing, and although you can get away with simply mashing your raspberries and straining the juice immediately, we always wanted to try using this old-school method, and we are glad we did. There's definitely a welcomed potency to the flavor.

Make Cocktails
It turns out that several delicious classics call for raspberry syrup. The Clover Club (which can also be made using homemade grenadine) is a notable example as is the Blinker cocktail which we will be making soon. Here are a couple more recipes to make it worth your while:

Columbia Cocktail by Trader Vic
2 oz light rum
.75 oz raspberry syrup
.75 oz lemon juice

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

With the mighty Columbia River just a short trip down the Willamette from us, we couldn't pass the opportunity to try the Columbia Cocktail by Victor "Trader Vic" Bergeron. in 1947, Trader Vic also wrote a Bartender's Guide, and this cocktail is featured among hundreds of others. It's not the complicated Tiki cocktail you might expect from Trader Vic, but what the Columbia lacks in complexity it makes up for in flexibility with plenty of room for additions and experimentation. This drink is very similar to the September Morn which uses grenadine instead of raspberry syrup and adds an egg white for a nice frothy experience. You could certainly take that route here with a foamy emulsion for what is essentially a raspberry rum sour.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Blushing Monk cocktail, a modern recipe from the Burrit Room at the Mystic Hotel in San Francisco, CA. A quick glance at the ingredients told us we were going to love this drink. It may not be the easiest recipe to pull together, but if you have all of the ingredients it's worth the effort.

Blushing MonkBlushing Monk
2 oz bourbon
.5 oz Green Chartreuse
.25 oz Cynar
.75 oz lemon juice
.5 oz raspberry syrup
1 sprig mint

Gently muddle the mint in a mixing glass. Add the other ingredients, shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

This one has flavors that just keep going and going. We were afraid the raspberry would get lost among the herbal intensity of the Cynar and Chartreuse, but that's not the case at all. It works on so many levels.

Give these a try and experiment with raspberry syrup. Consider subbing it in something you already love that calls for simple syrup for a unique twist. You can also just add sparkling water to the syrup for a refreshing nonalcoholic raspberry soda. The options are simply wide open.

Do you have a favorite use for your raspberry syrup? Leave a comment and let us know about it!

5 comments to Raspberry Cocktails

  • Paul

    I have startled on my raspberry syrup and it has benen sitting for absout 36 hours now. A little bit of mold is starting to grow on. Is this something I should be concerned about or should I let it sit a while longer? I started with frozen berries. It has started to bubble a little. I have also begun the same process with blackberries which I pricked around two quarts of yesterday. It will be interesting to taste the final resultat. Can you prolog the shelf life of the syrup by adding some vodka at the end?

  • Paul, two days is all you want. I don't think you want to use this now. Also, the idea is to use fresh berries--as if you were a winemaker.

  • Paul

    Yes, I left the raspberries for two days, but I tasted some of the strained off juice and the mold was right on the tongue, so I will seek out some place where you can go and pick fresh raspberries soon. The autumn sorts should be ripe within a couple of weeks. I did proceed with the blackberries though and strained off the juices this morning after two days. There was no mold evident in the fresh berries but in some of the jars it had started bubbeling so something was definitely happening. It was a very low yield though and out of about 2 1/2 quarts I got 3/4 ths of a cup -- 6% and if I had strained it through paper towels I would have ended up with maybe 2 oz. I just strained it through a cheese cloth which I had folded double. I added 1 3/4 oz of 140 proof vodka to the syrup and hope that I will be able to enjoy some nice cocktails which you share here Randy. It will be a Blackberry Columbia and a Black Blushing Monk... but what the heck they might still taste fine. It will be interesting to compare the raspberry Columbia with the blackberry Columbia in the future. I will report when I have made some raspberry syrup as well.

    • Yeah, I thought that might happen with the mold flavor. Sounds like your blackberries worked. The bubbling is the fermentation with the naturally occurring yeast taking over. You can press the fruit at get more juice out at the end. I think it's great that you are trying blackberry in these recipes. Using your blackberry syrup, try these drinks by Toby Maloney

      Briar Patch
      1.5 oz Plymouth Gin
      .75 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
      .5 oz Simple Syrup
      .25 oz Homemade Blackberry Cordial

      Shake, strain, garnish with fresh blackberry and lemon twist.

      Lady Clover
      2 oz Plymouth gin
      .75 oz House Blackberry Syrup
      .75 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
      1 Egg White
      7 drops Peychaud's Bitters
      Soda water to top

      Mime shake without ice, then shake with ice. Strain over fresh ice in a Collins glass and garnish with drops of Angostura.

  • Paul

    I tried the Briar Patch today and it was very fresh and a really good cocktail. The blackberry syrup gives the drink a pink hue and it looks nice with the fresh blackberry and the lemon swirl. The blackberry taste is not very prominent - I think raspberry syrup will carry more taste- but it lingers there in the background beneath the Plymouth Gin and the lemon juice. I would probably not have picked it out if I had had this drink served to me by someone else.

    Maybe the Lady Clover will have more of a blackberry profile as the amount of syrup is three times as high. I will try this next time.

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