The Bounty: Drinking Up Fire Island’s Blackberry Harvest

By Emily Ann Payton FitzGerald |

Its blackberry picking season folks! In New York’s famed summer retreat, Fire Island, that also means it’s blackberry drinking season.

Mind you, these drinks require some sacrifice. The August harvest is a time when the true meaning of “no pain, no gain” comes to life. Wild blackberry bushes attempt to keep our greedy little hands from their delicious fruit with an abundance of thorns. Yet, the temptation of these berries is just too sweet to resist.

It’s a battle worth fighting.  Few joys are more satisfying than the reward of picking a juicy, ripe blackberry–especially, after getting poked, pricked, and prodded while contorting yourself around a barbed bush.  

The peak season for blackberries in the United States runs late summer to early fall depending on your region. Here, on Fire Island the wild blackberry bushes burst with fruit during the final weeks of summer.

Fire Island is a small barrier island off the southern coast of Long Island.  A pristine white beach and a picture-perfect bay form bookends around a strip of greenery running through the center of the island. 

No cars are permitted on the island. Instead, bikes traverse small wooden boardwalk. Friendly deer also roam freely; the wildlife enjoys picking the wild fruits of summer along with the rest of the island’s community.  

Most of the human berry pickers on the Island put their prize to use in homemade pies, cobblers, or crumbles. However, this summer I was inspired to explore liquid applications.

The seasonal fruit is easy to incorporate into a drink through a syrup or simple muddling. Berries add sweetness, a little zing, and freshness to cocktails. I took some classic cocktails, incorporated blackberries, and optimized the recipes.

Remember, you don’t have to fight the battle yourself.  Visit your local farmers market and pick up some delicious blackberries to make these refreshing summer drinks.  Cheers!

Sunset Campari and Soda

A refreshing twist on the Italian standard, Campari and Soda, made sweeter with a house-made strawberry and blackberry simple syrup using wild blackberries. This sunset-hued drink is a perfect cocktail hour aperitif–low ABV, light bodied, and bubbly!

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Sunset Campari and Soda
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Instructions
  1. Fill a large wine glass with ice. Add in Campari, blackberry and strawberry and simple syrup.
  2. Give a gentle stir.
  3. Top with soda.
  4. Garnish with strawberry and blackberries.

Blackberry Fig Fizzy Margarita

Mix up your summer margarita with this delicious, effervescent potion made with freshly picked blackberries from the garden (or your local farmer’s market) and soft ripe figs. This recipe emphasizes the culinary elements over a straight vehicle for agave. A healthy dose of club soda also keeps the ABV low so you can indulge in a few of these without getting too tipsy.

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Blackberry Fig Fizzy Margarita
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Margarita
Sugar, Salt, Lime Rim
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Margarita
Sugar, Salt, Lime Rim
Instructions
  1. Fill pitcher with tequila, lime juice, chopped figs and blackberries
  2. Muddle until figs and berries are smashed, stir, and let mixture steep for at least 10 mins (the longer the better).
  3. On a small plate, mix together sugar, salt, lime zest.
  4. Run lime wedge around rim of each glass to wet. Dip glass in mixture to coat rim.
  5. Strain margarita mixture into glasses (about half-full). Add ice.
  6. Top with club soda and stir until blended.
  7. Garnish with fig half and blackberries.

Capital “G” Blackberry Bramble

Look no further for the perfect summer cocktail. A spin on the classic drink- the Bramble, first created in London in the 80’s, made with dry gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and Crème de Mûre, a blackberry liquor. 

In this recipe, a homemade blackberry simple syrup replaces the Crème de Mûre and provides a perfect naturally, sweet balance to this gin-forward concoction.

Warning: These go down quickly.

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Capital “G” Blackberry Bramble
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Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. In a Rocks Glass, muddle together blackberries, simply syrup, and lemon juice until blackberries are smashed.
  2. Fill the glass with ice. Add gin and stir to combine.
  3. Garnish with additional blackberries and lemon slice.

Blackberry, Plum, & Basil Smash

Relax, kick back, and raise a (mason jar) glass to summer with this delicious rum smash using fresh blackberries, plums and basil. The formula is essentially a rum rickey riff, but the flavor profile is all about the fruit with the rum serving to tie it all together.

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Blackberry, Plum, & Basil Smash
Servings
Drinks
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. In a pitcher, muddle together blackberries, plums, sugar, lemon juice, and basil until fruit is smashed.
  2. Add rum and club soda. Stir to combine.
  3. Fill glasses or mason jars with ice and pour in mixture.
  4. Top each glass with a blackberry and sprig of mint.

Blackberry & Strawberry Syrup

This ingredient is a refreshing take on Simple Syrup (1:1) from Emily Ann Payton Fitzgerald. Inspired by Fire Island, NY’s end-0f-summer berry harvest, the sweet syrup is perfect for adding a refreshing note to classic long drink formulas.

Note: This recipe is easily tweaked to created Blackberry Syrup or Strawberry Syrup. Just double up the quantity on your preferred berry and eliminate the other.

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Blackberry & Strawberry Syrup
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Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a pot.
  2. Bring to boil and then simmer for 20 mins.
  3. Strain out berries from mixture. (Do not press down on berries to help keep syrup from getting cloudy.)
  4. Cool syrup in fridge for an hour. Use in desired cocktail recipe. Can be made ahead and stored in fridge for up to a wee
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