A couple weeks ago the lure of futuristic sex robots on the promotional invitation pulled me to Parkdale’s Parts & Labour for the Canadian launch of Svedka vodka. This most filtered and pure spirit is not my favourite spirit but I always try to keep an open mind where free alcohol is involved.
After we exhausted the list of Svedka-designed cocktails the bearded bartender at PNL was good enough to mix a vodka version of the modern classic Bramble for me and the two ladies beside me–who were much better at twisting his arm. Ice, vodka (the original has gin), lemon juice, simple syrup, and sparkling water are stirred together before a blackberry liqueur is carefully poured over the top and berries are added as garnish.
I dislike blackberries (for their seeds mainly) even more than vodka so was happily struck by the idea to substitute cherry. This summer has been a great one for cherries in Ontario and I have finally preserved one of those large tubs worth of black cherries (perhaps that adventure will make another post) by way of two Thomas Keller recipes. The relevant one is cherries in a sort of vanilla brandy syrup.
I plan to use these as part of a from-scratch black forest cake or over ice cream. All preserved whole fruit seem suited for this application but how often do we eat ice cream at home and when we do when is it a flavour sedate enough (like vanilla) to handle a sweetened fruit topping? So, the highball glass seems an ideal place for the cherry jar’s surplus liquid.
Don’t be tempted to pour neon-red maraschino cherry syrup into a glass. Ever. Trust me that you will be better served by making your own syrup.
Into a plastic wine tumbler–at the cottage one need not stand on ceremony when it comes to glass, I think–I scooped a handful of ice, poured in some vodka, a bit of lemon juice, filled with soda water and then topped with a teaspoon of the vanilla-brandy-cherry syrup. At first it’s obvious that this is a truly refreshing long drink. But then we really noticed how subtle the cherry flavour is; it needs to be hunted for and that is definitely a good thing. Taste memories are formed early and I will be avoiding the flavour of ear infection medicine (fake banana) and cough syrup (oppressive fake cherry) for the rest of my life. Here it is balanced nicely with vanilla and does not over-power.
This is a really good drink but here’s the thing: When researching for this post (I typed “bramble cocktail” into Google) I came across this quite excellent article that gives the history of the Bramble. It speculates that its creator, Dick Bradsell, may have based his invention on the Canadian Blackberry Fix which is a combination of the Bramble’s ingredients but with Canadian whisky instead of gin. Canadian and rye whiskies are close cousins and cherries are a very common garnish for the Manhattan so I’m struck by the impression that as July fades into August subbing the cherry syrup into this Canadian Fix may be an even better way to ease ourselves into autumn.
And what about this name? Well, what of it? I admit that “Bramble” is succinct but descriptive and short enough that one could casually mumble it to a helpful bartender without worrying about dirty looks from those to your left drinking beer from a bottle or those to the right with their apple-tinis. My name makes up for its total lack of brevity with even more descriptiveness.
Hot July Day in an Orchard
Over a handful of ice (in a large-ish glass) pour a generous shot of vodka, the juice of one-sixth of a lemon and enough soda water to almost fill the glass. Stir to combine. Carefully pour about a teaspoon of your cherry syrup onto the surface of the glass’s contents. Do this last bit in front of whomever you’re serving the drink to so that they might be impressed by the pretty colours as the red syrup slowly floats and sinks into the clear liquid. Alternately, just be more generous with the vodka.
Canadian Cherry Fix
Into a cocktail shaker filled with cracked ice pour two shots (from the large side of your jigger) of Canadian whisky, the juice of half a lemon and two pony shots (the small side) of cherry syrup. Stir with moderate vigour for about ten seconds. Serve in two whisky glasses–over more crushed ice if it is still warm out–with a cherry to garnish.