Summer time is hot weather & cool cocktail time! Check your pantry for the following ingredients. Foraged elderberries or blackberries? You betcha! We made elderberry syrup right here just last month. Sloe berries? Uh oh, not in these parts. These berries are native to the United Kingdom, growing on the savage Blackthorn bushes used to create the quintessential hedgerows of the English countryside, cattle-proofing the farms. The fruit is similar to a small plum, suitable for preserves, but rather tart for eating.
At the Ballyvolane House in Cork, Ireland, they make a Hedgerow Martini in honor of this prolific berry using a liqueur made by the Brits for hundreds of years. You guessed it. Sloe gin! The tartness of the berry dissipates through infusion in a high-proof gin, plus a wee bit of sugar, and I promise you, this is not the sloe gin of your college years. An original and refined, grain-to-glass version is distilled right here in the San Francisco bay area by husband and wife team, Timo and Ashby Marshall of Spirit Works Distillery. Timo hails from a small village in England, where his family has been refining a sloe gin recipe for generations using locally hand-picked sloes. Timo and Ashby import sloe berries to the U.S. to make their signature English concoction, similar in taste to a rich Port wine, with berry and citrus notes.
Take your cocktail outside with a cup of ice and a spoon. Trust me, you will want to add ice in this summer heat. I selected this vintage Turkish olive oil vessel, a gift from my brother’s family, and the champagne coupe is a gift from a sister who shares my love for vintage cocktails. Find a few personal and meaningful objects around your home for a summer weekend cocktail. Sip & savor, sloe gin, slow living. No better way to spend these dog days of summer.
I first laid eyes upon this hand-crafted cocktail at Imen McDonnell’s blog, Farmette (originally titled, “I Married An Irish Farmer: what one American city girl did for love.) Imen lives across the pond, far and away, on a plot of Irish farmland, trading in her American film & television career for that of an Irish farm lass. Inspired by Imen, I first learned how to make cheese and butter, pretending I too lived on a farm and not in the Silicon Valley tech suburbs. It is through Imen’s eyes that I first read about the historic Irish Ballyvolane Country House, this 16th century Irish castle now on my travel bucket list for its fly fishing, locally sourced slow food, and wild edible foragings in lush ancient woodlands. Amazing, right!? Ahhhhhh….. that’s why they call it a bucket list.
- For 2 servings:
- 1-3 TBSP elderberry syrup to taste *
- ½ cup ice, plus extra to have on hand
- 2 shots gin
- 3 shots sloe gin or to taste
- Squeeze of lime
- Martini shaker or jar with lid
- Pour elderberry syrup into a jar or martini shaker, cover with ice, gin and sloe gin, then shake and pour into cocktail glass. Garnish with berries or basil sprig. Squeeze in a lime if you desire a tang. * Use any berries or herbs specific to your locale for this cocktail. If you don't have elderberries, you can simply mash up with a wooden spoon or a food processor your own blackberries, currants or other fruit, and press through a sieve.