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Elements: Raspberry Cocktails

Story: Paul Clarke

Illustration: Matty Newton

We see much of history through sepia-toned shades, antiquity’s appearance tinged with gold and amber. Cocktail history, however, sometimes takes a different hue—such as the accents of pink and crimson that accompany drinking culture’s long relationship with the rich flavor of raspberries.

Along with other cocktail produce staples like citrus, pineapple, and fresh mint, raspberries populated a surprisingly large number of cocktail recipes starting in the mid-19th century. Fresh raspberries were regularly deployed as garnish atop cobblers and punches, and when translated into syrup form, the berries contributed both their rubicund tinge and their fragrant, sweet-tart character.

The fruit found its way into recipes for the Brandy Punch, the Knickerbocker, and the National Guard 7th Regiment Punch, all included in Jerry Thomas’ seminal 1862 The Bar-Tender’s Guide. Subsequent decades saw the raspberry’s continued popularity as a character actor in cocktail recipes, accompanying brandy and rye whiskey in New Orleans’ own Roffignac cocktail; genever and lemon juice in the Gin Fix; and even playing an equal part alongside ingredients like maraschino liqueur and yellow Chartreuse in that classic cocktail ensemble production, the Pousse Café, as rendered by Harry Johnson in 1882.

Raspberry syrup’s utility as a cocktail coloring gradually gave way to pomegranate-based grenadine, but the fruit’s bright, rich flavor remained significant as a cocktail mainstay well into the 20th century. While proving its utility in dark-spirit drinks like the Quaker’s Cocktail (with brandy and aged rum) and the Cora Middleton (with Jamaican rum and lemon), raspberry found its spirituous life partner in gin—the Clover Club, the Floradora, and the Leave It to Me all paired the ingredients together with memorable results.

The quality of commercially made syrups (such as Small Hand Foods’ raspberry gum syrup) has improved markedly in recent years, but during peak berry season, incorporating fresh raspberries into cocktails is a simple project at home. Tossing a few berries into a shaker along with simple syrup is an easy on-the-fly technique, or spend a few minutes mixing up a basic homemade syrup to have at the ready—perfect for pitching into cocktails or lemonade, and letting the berry’s summery flavor brighten everything it touches.

Knickerbocker

This precursor to the 20th century’s tiki boom dates at least to 1862, when it appeared in Jerry Thomas’ first bar guide. Thomas called for “Santa Cruz” rum in his recipe—a bold, aged rum from Barbados, Jamaica, or a blend, will provide the desired character.

2 oz. aged rum
1 oz. fresh lime juice
½ oz. curaçao
½ oz. raspberry syrup

Tools: shaker, strainer
Glass: goblet or wine
Garnish: slice of orange and pineapple, lime twist
Shake all of the ingredients with ice, strain into a glass filled with crushed ice, then garnish.

Raspberry Syrup: In a bowl, combine 1 cup of raspberries (fresh or frozen) with enough simple syrup (1:1) to fully cover the berries. Let the mixture soak overnight, then strain the syrup from the solids and bottle for use. Keeps refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
 

Leave It to Me

Gin’s herbaceous character has a particular affinity for raspberries, as demonstrated by this drink that dates back at least to 1896, when it appeared in a French bar book. Old Tom gin was specified in that recipe, though later versions adopted dry gin—and the proportions have fluctuated over the years; start with this version and find the balance that suits your tastes.

1½ oz. gin
¼ oz. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. raspberry syrup
2 tsp. maraschino liqueur

Tools: shaker, strainer
Glass: cocktail
Garnish: lemon slice

Shake all of the ingredients with ice, strain into a chilled glass, then garnish.

Roffignac

Sharing a name with Louis Philippe Joseph de Roffignac, the mayor of New Orleans from 1820 to 1828, this drink was dominant in the city’s drinking culture in the late 19th century. Some early incarnations called for himbeeressig—a raspberry- vinegar shrub-type syrup; this adaptation nudges the flavor in the same historical direction.

1 oz. brandy
¾ oz. rye whiskey
¾ oz. raspberry syrup
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
2 oz. chilled club soda

Tools: shaker, strainer
Glass: highball
Garnish: fresh raspberry and lemon wheel

Shake the first 4 ingredients with ice, then strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Top with club soda, then garnish.

Adapted by Chris Hannah, Jewel of the South, New Orleans

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