The Bramble cocktail is a wonderful summer refresher that features creme de mûre, although there is nothing demure about it. It’s cold and bursting with tart, bold berry flavor and is dangerously easy to drink. While it isn’t exactly new, the Bramble is by no means a classic in the pre-prohibition sense. It does pre-date the current cocktail renaissance, created in London by Dick Bradsell in the 1980s. It is (or was) common in England but somehow never swept the US like many expected. Perhaps we were preoccupied with Cosmopolitans and vodka. Whether or not this drink is new to you, we think it deserves some attention, and probably some repetition.
Based on a simple framework, it is essentially a gin sour with added berry liqueur. It’s like a blackberry lemonade, and every bit as delicious as that sounds. With a structure this basic, it is ripe for experimentation. You could literally line up the liqueurs and try one variation after another and have more than a few hits to keep the summer interesting.
2 oz gin
1 oz lemon juice
.5 oz simple syrup
.5 oz creme de mûre
Fill a lowball glass with crushed ice. Add the gin, lemon juice and simple syrup. Stir to mix and chill topping off the ice as needed. Drizzle the blackberry liqueur over the top and garnish with a lemon wheel and two blackberries if you got ‘em.
There are several different accounts of this recipe with slight adjustments to the proportions, but the basic formula is the same—start with a gin sour using lemon and simple syrup. There is usually an excess of lemon to make way for the liqueur. It can be shaken which mixes the liqueur with everything, or built in the glass as we have it. We found that as written, the drink tends to be somewhat tart which is fine (and likely due to our homemade blackberry liqueur). Your mileage may vary, but we drizzled an additional quarter ounce or more of liqueur and enjoyed the extra berry flavor that results. One criticism with the build process is that the liqueur is heavier than the other ingredients so you don’t get a proper float. Layering is fine, but we actually like the way the liqueur cascades downward through the crushed ice in a pink, opalescent swirl.
We have also read that some folks like to split the liqueur between blackberry and raspberry which sounds good. You could try creme de cassis, peach, apricot—your imagination is only limited by your inventory. You will no doubt stumble into an existing cocktail recipe or two which is fine. We are not going to make a fuss if you accidentally reinvent the Aviation.
The base spirit at the heart of all of this experimentation is, of course, gin. We used Gordon’s which is not expensive and brings plenty of flavor. Don’t be afraid of using a gin with some juniper kick, as this will elevate the other flavors—something vodka will never do. Also, if you happen to have fresh blackberries, use them with a slice of lemon for the traditional garnish. We used all of ours to make liqueur and opted to forego using frozen, although that would have worked fine too. In any case, be sure to reserve a slice of lemon before squeezing for the garnish.