(Makes 4 cocktails – Recipe courtesy of Eastside Distilling)
I had this invigorating berry cocktail one sizzling, 97-degree day in the Pacific Northwest; atypical weather for this region, and I was not prepared for how thirsty I became. I was in Portland attending the annual Berry Festival with hundreds of other perspiring berry lovers. The festival was capped with a gala dinner held…outside. Ugh.
Ordinarily, a summer evening dinner out on the patio would be a true delight in Portland. But not this night. As soon as the berry festival dinner guests arrived and were escorted to the dining terrace, we rushed to the bar. All of us sought something cool and refreshing to drink to help cope with the searing heat still radiating from the pavement.
Portland’s own Eastside Distilling was on hand, mixing a variety of berry inspired drinks from their assortment of locally distilled spirits. After learning about the fruit Oregonians are most proud of, I opted for their Marionberry Cocktail, a spritely mix of fresh marionberry juice and fresh-squeezed lemons with white rum and a sprig of mint.
One of the most exciting events at the berry festival was a bus trip to Boring. Here we met Julie Schedeen, a farmer who grows an assortment of fruit, but specializes in blackberries. Julie gave us a tour of her fields, introducing us to all the varieties she and the rest of the Schedeen clan produce. There were boysenberries and loganberries, olallieberries and tayberries; all juicy and lush but each with a distinctive flavor and color.
We then gathered at the marionberry plot. Julie is rightfully proud of all her fruits, but agrees the marionberry’s flavor is hard to beat. She says those in the industry often market these as the “cabernet of blackberries.” She invites us to pick a few and taste for ourselves. The fruits are large, slightly conical in shape, longer than they are wide, with a dark, deep purple hue. I pop one in my mouth. The first thing I notice is the flood of juice coating my tongue; easily the juiciest blackberry I’ve ever tasted.
The berry is sweet, with overtones of typical blackberry tartness. But I also notice the flavor is deeper than other blackberry varieties. I can see why these are favored in pies and muffins and pastries; you want a fruit that maintains clear, assertive flavors after being blended, mixed, and baked. The flavor is also complex, and I immediately understood why it is compared to cabernet sauvignon. I tasted notes of luscious black currant, or crème de cassis, which is an intrinsic essence of the best Bordeaux and California cabernet sauvignon. Which also makes it perfect for cocktails.
This cocktail expertly showcases the marionberry’s lusciousness, and is a perfect summer sipper, whether the evening temperature is 77-degrees or 97.
1 pint fresh marionberries, juiced (see below)
4 lemons, juiced
Blue Curaçao syrup
1 small bunch fresh mint, for garnish
A few hours ahead, make the marionberry juice. Rinse one pint of fresh, ripe marionberries and place into a saucepan with just enough water so the fruits bob. Bring to a boil slowly, then mash the berries with a potato masher in the water. Bring liquid back to a boil, then remove from heat.
Pour the berry mixture into a chinois and mash some more with a wooden dowel or the back of a wooden spoon, collecting all the juice into a bowl. Set juice in refrigerator to cool until happy hour. Meanwhile, squeeze the ripe lemons until 6 ounces of juice is obtained.
Add 1 jigger each of the marionberry juice, lemon juice, white rum, and Curaçao syrup into a shaker filled with ice. Shake lightly then strain into a highball glass and add a splash of seltzer water. Repeat for the remaining three cocktails. Garnish each drink with a sprig of mint and have fun!