The end of summer doesn't need to mean the end of fruity cocktails — we just need to use preserved fruits and emphasize some subtler, year-round flavors.
My drink-making ingredient list was greatly enhanced by a summer 2008 New York Times piece that listed the "11 Best Foods You Aren't Eating." I didn't jump on the beet bandwagon, and I've still got a can of sardines sitting in my cupboard, but I did throw lots of local, organic blueberries in my freezer. At some point I used the blueberries to make a terrible smoothie (non-alcoholic concoctions aren't my specialty), but then I wasn't sure what to do with them.
Not too much longer after the berries hit the freezer, I discovered St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur. St. Germain has become common on many cocktail lists since then, but I feel that it is too frequently limited to a minor role in sparkling wine cocktails. I have nothing against these concoctions — they're spectacular (The Kitchn even posted one). But stopping at sparkling wine fails to make full use of this creation's sweet and subtle flavors, and opening a bottle of bubbly is a waste if not enough people are having the same thing.
Flavor and not wasting champagne aside, sometimes champagne flutes just aren't the right look. Flutes filled with a soft golden hue are great at brunch or on lazy summer afternoons, but we're headed into winter! I think soft hues at post-sunset cocktail hours are a bit chilly. It's a time for a visually warming drink with a kick that excites your entire mouth.
Creating such a concoction was my goal one evening last year when my wife, Emily, who has always preferred gin-based cocktails, requested a drink. In addition to liking gin, I also knew she had fallen in love with St. Germain's elderflower flavor by this time, and I was searching for ways to use it. I was unsure how to get color into the mix as I opened the freezer for ice, but those blueberries called from the shelf!
The resulting drink has become a year-round staple that guests have never shied away from finishing: the FreeBerry.
The FreeBerry Cocktail makes 1 drink
1.5 ounce gin (I use Bombay Sapphire) 1 ounce St. Germain's Elderflower Liqueur 4-5 frozen blueberries Juice from 1/2 a lime or lemon
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake vigorously (shaking is a must in order to break down the blueberries). Strain into a martini glass — use a tea strainer if you want to avoid pieces of blueberry skin.
Garnish with frozen blueberries (readily at hand, if you've made the drink) or flower petals (plan ahead).