If you’ve ever gone berry picking in summer, you know how it easy it is to pick an insane amount of berries. Each plump piece of fruit begs to be pulled from the vine, and before you know it you have flats full of fruit and big plans. But then you get home, and you realise you may have been a tad overzealous.
I guess, technically, there is no such thing as “too many berries.” Besides just eating them (I like mine with cream), you can make jam, bake them into all the pies, or simply freeze them in an attempt to stop the cruel march of time. There is, however, such thing as fatigue, and once you (and your friends) tire of homemade jam and pie, it’s time to turn to the bottle.
Like any other problem — real or imagined — I am suggesting you drink about it. Berries and booze were meant to be friends, and there are three very easy ways to introduce them to each other.
Easy: Just muddle it
Toss half a cup of berries in a shaker and coat them with a tablespoon of sugar. Muddle the heck out of ‘em, and let everything mix and soak for a couple of minutes to form a syrup. Take a little taste of liquid, and add more sugar if it’s needed, as berries can vary in sweetness.
Add 60 millilitres of your favourite liquor. I think gin is best for fresh berries, but rum isn’t bad either, particularly if you want to chuck some mint in and make mojitos. Add an ounce of lemon or lime juice, taste and adjust if needed, then add ice to the shaker and shake until chilled. Strain into a glass filled with crushed ice, and top with soda water.
Slightly more involved: Shrub it up
Shrubs aren’t alcoholic, but the fruity vinegars play well with booze. My favourite shrub-making process is this lazy one, which involves no cooking and barely any measuring.
Just take a 500 grams of fruit, and toss that fruit with two cups of sugar. White sugar really lets the berry flavour shine, but brown sugar can add a little bit of fun dimension. Throw in some herbs if you have them. (Thyme and blackberries are heavenly.) Mash the fruit with a wooden spoon to break it up, stir to evenly distribute the sugar, then throw a dish towel over the bowl and walk away for a two days, returning once a day to stir.
After a couple of days, you will have a ton of juicy berry goodness. Strain that out, measure the volume, then measure out the same amount of vinegar. Slowly add the vinegar, half a cup at a time, tasting as you go until you reach your desired level of tartness. Your shrub is done. Pour it into a pretty bottle, then splash it into seltzer, along with a bit of whatever hard liquor you’re enjoying at the moment.
Not exactly advanced: Liqueur it up
If you are a fancy person and want to make a fancy beverage, you should make crème de mûre, not only for its fancy French name, but because it is delicious and easy. This is a blackberry-specific recipe, but I don’t see why you couldn’t get other berries involved.
Like our shrub, it involves a little waiting. Start by mashing five cups of berries with a bottle of medium-bodied red in a large bowl, then cover it up with a dish towel and let it hang out for a couple of days. Strain the flesh and seeds out (use a cheesecloth if needed), then pour the liquid into a saucepan with a cup and a half of sugar.
Bring everything to a simmer, stir to dissolve the sugar, and let if cook for eight minutes. Let cool, stir in half a cup of vodka, and pour into clean, preferably sterilised bottles. (Can you add more than half a cup of vodka? Could you use something else instead of vodka? Yes to both — just make sure to taste along the way.)