On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtledoves, and a partridge in a pear tree.
I realize that a blackbird seems like a stretch from the songbirds in today’s lyric, but hear me out. For one thing, the Beatles apparently enjoy a good blackbird song, at least in the middle of the night, and I think they are a pretty reliable source. But the more official link comes through the original old English of the song, in which day four brought four “colly” birds. The word “colly” meant black, and we end up again at blackbirds.
But let’s focus on the truly important thing here: this cocktail. We start with a stunning deep purple simple syrup made from blackberries, ginger, and cardamom, an unexpected but wonderful combo that tastes as good as it looks. We mix it with both bourbon and ginger liqueur and top the whole thing with some selzer for a lightly sweet and richly flavored drink. A little pink sugar on the rim of the glass lets us know we’ve got something special here.
Even if you don’t drink or if bourbon doesn’t float your boat, you have to try this simple syrup. A little flavored syrup makes a great addition to lemonade, sparkling water (homemade Italian soda!), or your alcohol of choice. I can’t get over the amazing color of this blackberry version, and the subtle spice of ginger and cardamom take it over the top. It’s so good!
- BLACKBERRY SYRUP:
- 1 c. blackberries
- 1 c. sugar
- 1 c. water
- 1 t. cardamom pods
- Thumb-sized knob of ginger
- Sugar, for rim of glass
- 1½ oz. bourbon
- ½ oz. ginger liqueur
- 1-2 oz. blackberry syrup
- Juice of ¼ lemon
- Selzer water
- Make the blackberry syrup: cut the knob of ginger into thin slices (no need to peel). Combine all syrup ingredients in a medium pot. Smash the blackberries with the back of a spoon to bring out their juice. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then turn heat down to low and let simmer until thickened and deeply purple, about 20 minutes. Let cool and strain out solids.
- Pour the sugar into a shallow dish. Dip the rim of each glass into the blackberry syrup, then into the sugar.
- Shake bourbon, liqueur, syrup, and lemon juice with ice in a cocktail shaker. Pour into the prepared glass(es) and top with selzer water. Use a small stem glass with less selzer for a more intense, sweeter cocktail and a tall, skinny glass with more selzer for a light, refreshing cocktail.
Recipe adapted from Matthieu Rodriguez.