Food & Drink » Remix

The Bramble is a versatile and superior '80s cocktail

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In this column I put a new twist on a classic cocktail each month. Those classics usually date from the very early part of the 20th century, having evolved around the Jazz Age, with its need to disguise poor-quality liquor and its wider drinking audience, due to relaxed mores against women drinking spirits. So it may seem like a stretch to call a cocktail from the 1980s a classic, but the Bramble is undeniably one.

The Bramble was first mixed by Dick Bradsell at his trendy London bar, Fred's Club, in 1984. It's often compared, in fact, to another 1980s "classic": the Cosmopolitan. While they share some traits besides vintage – easy drinkability, pinkness, sweetness – the Bramble is a far superior drink. Compared to the Cosmo's machined simplicity and rigid samey-sameness, the Bramble, basically a gin sour with a drizzle of blackberry liqueur, offers a shaggy variability, seasonality and an endearing patriotism (gin and blackberries being fetishes of British summer).

When I laud the Bramble's variability, I mostly mean that it's easy to screw around with. (Cosmos are pointless to remix. Vodka tastes of nothing, so it's a cocktail with no backbone; its only character comes from the mixers.) In fall a young girl's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of brown spirits, and the Bramble adapts extremely well to alternate liquors – this recipe calls for bourbon, but I also had success with rye, aged rum (try Grander, which has a whiskey-like vibe) and even tequila.

It was very easy to simply swap in another spirit for the gin and call it a day, but I wanted to take it further. Pimm's, another British summer talisman, announced a limited-edition blackberry and elderflower version of their herbal liqueur a couple of years ago and it's now available in the U.S.; it's a worthy addition to your bar arsenal, useful as a supporting player or simply mixed with club soda or tonic over ice.

Summery as all these flavors are – lemon and sugar, blackberry and elderflower – each one also marries fantastically with sweet bourbon. It took just a bit of experimenting to find the right proportions. And in the end, in a finale familiar to anyone who dabbles in cocktail mixology, a dash of clear, faintly bitter Luxardo Maraschino (a liqueur distilled from sour cherry pits) was the thing that tied it all together. This less-sweet Bourbon Bramble, poised between summer and fall flavors, is just right for weather that's in the same in-between spot.

Start with the proportions here, but taste and adjust; the sweetness of both the bourbon you choose and the fruit you buy will vary.

Classic:

2 ounces gin
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1/2 ounce crème de mûre (blackberry liqueur)

In a shaker filled with ice, shake together the first three ingredients. Strain mixture into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice, mounded into a peak. Drizzle blackberry liqueur over the ice for a streaked effect. Garnish with a slice of lemon and two blackberries.

Remix:

1 1/2 ounces bourbon
1 ounce Pimm's Blackberry & Elderflower
1/4 ounce Luxardo Maraschino
1/2 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon
1/2 ounce simple syrup
fresh blackberries

Muddle two large berries at the bottom of a cocktail shaker, then add ice and bourbon, Pimm's, Luxardo, lemon juice and simple syrup. Shake, then strain into a rocks glass over crushed ice.

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