By Flavor & The Menu
December 9, 2019
Craftsmanship, freshness, inventiveness, color, “Wow!” factor, and intriguing flavors—those are markers of a great cocktail program today. Fruit-forward drinks certainly aid in hitting those goals. But with such a competitive landscape, the bar for differentiation is set even higher. How else can you make your fruit-forward cocktail stand out? We’ve homed in on the blueberry as a solution to a number of creative cocktail builds.
Why? First, the color is striking, adding Insta-appeal to a drink. Second, it’s available year-round, thanks to all of its forms (fresh, frozen, dried, freeze-dried, pureed, powdered and juiced). Third, it requires little labor and is easy to use in a number of different applications. And last, but definitely not least, blueberries are consumers’ favorite berry,* giving mixologists a friendly bridge to more adventurous flavors. From blueberry shrubs to blueberry simple syrups, here are a number of ways to make your cocktails buzzworthy.
Blueberries have seen a 29% growth in cocktail and mixed drink menu mentions over the last four years.**
Shrubs, or drinking vinegars, add a beautiful, bracing hit of acidity to cocktails. They speak to wholesomeness, artisanship and nostalgia. A blueberry shrub simply contains a combination of blueberries, vinegar and sugar. Once the blueberries become syrupy, they’re strained out of the liquid.
The Continental in Naples, Fla., uses two blueberry shrub applications on its cocktail menu. The Church Key sees Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon and lemon finished with a blueberry-sage shrub. And the Sweet Nothings features gin, lemon and bitters with a blueberry-lavender shrub.
California Pizza Kitchen’s Blueberry Ginger Smash stars fresh blueberries, lime, ginger, whiskey, cranberry juice and agave sour. “We wanted to create a refreshing, summer-inspired cocktail that guests can enjoy year round,” says Brian Sullivan, executive chef and SVP of culinary innovation.
Blueberry Simple Syrup
Infusing simple syrup with blueberries gives the sugar concoction both flavor and personality, opening up a world of drink possibilities—from blueberry margaritas to spiked blueberry lemonades, fizzes, and more. To make the syrup in-house, simply combine blueberry juice, water and sugar. At Silvia in Woodstock, N.Y., Mark Landsman, beverage director, goes a step further and uses an infusion of simple syrup with both blueberry and cardamom for his Blueberry-Cardamom Fizz.
“The slight sweetness of blueberry and citrusy fragrance of cardamom pair wonderfully with the rich nutty flavor of tawny port, while the lemon and prosecco add tartness and balance,” he says. “I love blueberries because they have a playful flavor—one that is light enough to enjoy before dinner and rich enough to pair with dessert.”
** U&A Study conducted by SMS Research on behalf of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, 2017
** Datassential, 2019
For menu solutions that maximize blueberries, visit BlueberryCouncil.org/Foodservice.