Sunday 20 September 2020

Drinking off the land

The final version

Of course foraging is a bit of a Thing these days (doubtless part of the whole trend for “artisan” everything, slow living, etc). But I still find it rather uplifting to be able to cook with and eat something I have just found growing wild. It doesn’t come up much here in London, but often on holiday in more rural bits of Britain I’ll be able to gather wild garlic or marsh samphire (and, on one occasion, rock samphire—though I wouldn’t recommend that). This time round, while stomping around Cornwall’s Penwith peninsula (the most westerly part of mainland Britain) we were surrounded by blackberry bushes—every country path was bordered by them and they are equally happy popping up at the edge of a car park or road. These wild ones were not generally as sweet as the huge commercial ones you can buy in supermarkets, but it did seem a waste not to do something with them.

The Mk I with berries but no mint

So I made myself a sort of Bramble cocktail. This Dick Bradsell creation is normally made with gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup and crème de mure, but I used fresh blackberry juice instead of the liqueur. It worked pretty well, though I think you have to get the balance between gin and fruit right, to keep the juniper in its place. (I was using Tanqueray.)

But we also found fresh water mint growing by a stream near to where we were staying: it was rather tasty, with a zippy, almost mentholic mint flavour. So my next experiment was a sort of Southside Fizz—gin, lime juice and sugar syrup as before, but this time with about a heaped teaspoon of mint, chopped then muddled with the lime and syrup, before adding the gin, ice and—in the absence of soda water—a little tonic. (Without the mixer it is just a Southside.) This was actually more successful, with the mint flavour clear and refreshing.

But the best was yet to come. For my final experiment I combined both of these ideas into one cocktail—to great effect, I felt, as the blackberries and the mint have a natural harmony. (I also felt the that the blackberries sat more comfortably with the gin, which may just mean I got the proportions right: sadly I had no measuring equipment with me, so the proportions here are an estimate.)

The Mk II, Southside Fizz

Forager Cocktail

45ml gin
Juice of half a lime
About 1–1½ tsp sugar syrup
1 heaped tsp chopped water mint (although I’m sure it would work with other kinds of mint)
About 30 wild blackberries (fewer if using larger commercial berries)

Add the mint to a glass with the syrup and lime juice and muddle to extract the flavour. Add the berries and muddle until reduced to a pulp. Strain (rubbing through the strainer if necessary, to release all the juice) into another glass, filled with ice, or into a shaker and shake with ice then pour into a cocktail glass. Garnish with mint, a lime wedge, or a blackberry. I was constructing this in the kitchen of a rented cottage, so I had no shaker or special equipment, but I imagine you could use a food processor to purée the berries, but they will still need straining, as they contain a lot of seeds.

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