Fresh, sweet-tart blueberries are one of the hallmarks of summer, whether you pluck them from a field or grab a bushel from your local farmers market. But there’s a better way to enjoy the bite-sized berries besides eating them by the handful or baking them into a pie: Turn them into cocktails. Blueberries are extremely versatile behind the bar, and can be cooked down, dried out or used fresh.
4 Delicious Ways to Use Blueberries in Cocktails This Summer
This fruity riff on a Margarita from Andrew Shaner of New York City’s Goodnight Sonny forgoes tequila in favor of smoky mezcal and gets a bright kick from blueberry compote. There’s something for everyone: sweet blueberries, earthy mezcal, tart lemon juice, herbaceous cilantro, spicy serrano honey, and even a rim of salty pink peppercorn and sea salt. It’s a chameleon cocktail that pairs with everything from raw shellfish to chocolatey desserts. If you have jarred blueberry preserves lying around in the cupboard, feel free to use them in place of a homemade blueberry compote—but we promise that making it from scratch with fresh blueberries is well worth the effort.
Sorry to break it to you, but you’ve been making Gin & Tonics all wrong. The actual best way to enjoy the botanical concoction is in the Spanish style, served in a ballooned goblet and garnished with carefully selected aromatics. At L.A.’s SOCA, general manager and partner Rory Snipes designed a gin-centric bar program specializing in this superior style. There are 10 different varieties on the menu, but our favorite is the No. 4, made with both fresh and dehydrated blueberries, Meyer lemon and chocolate mint. “Dehydrated blueberries infuse a much more concentrated flavor in the cocktail than fresh blueberries, as they rehydrate and release a subtle, fruity sweetness into the gin,” Snipes says. Breathe in that citrusy mint, pop a berry into your mouth and take a long icy gulp; you’ll understand why the Spanish know best.
In this fruity take on a Whiskey Sour, husband and wife duo Heather Heuser and Jason Marcus of Brooklyn’s Traif infuse scotch with fresh blueberries. “Scotch is a nice, strong spirit that can hold up nicely when infusing with fruit,” says Heuser. “Blueberry is a great fruit because it’s tart and sweet, so it’s already a nicely balanced element to add into cocktails.” Heuser mixes the infusion with fresh lemon and creamy orgeat—a nutty syrup made here with toasted pistachios instead of almonds for a richer flavor. “Together they work well in smoothing out some of the rough edges of the scotch,” Heuser says. A few sprays of crème de violette give the cocktail a subtle hint of florality and, of course, another wink to the ill-fated Willy Wonka character for whom the drink is named.
If there’s anyone who knows their way around a blueberry, it’s a Canadian—especially if they’re from Nova Scotia where there are over 1,000 wild blueberry producers. “In the summertime, residents flock to the u-picks, filling the 10 pound, white cardboard boxes,” says Jared Wall, manager of the restaurant Gio in Halifax. “And everybody’s family has their own recipe for blueberry crumble.” To recreate the classic summertime dessert, Wall likes to use a base of strongly-brewed Organic Blueberry Jam tea from David’s Tea, since it mixes real, dried berries with black tea leaves. Disaronno Amaretto and brown sugar cinnamon syrup capture the warm, nutty flavor of the crumbly topping, and a trio of fresh lemon juice, lemon zest and lemon bitters add some zing. “The final touch is adding fresh egg white,” says Wall. “It’s the bow on the present. It wraps all the flavors together and presents them nicely beneath a rich creamy foam.”