Blackberry Old-Fashioned Cocktail (Locally Foraged)

Blackberry Old-Fashioned

I’m sitting in Seattle sipping a Blackberry Old-Fashioned cocktail. As I mentioned in a previous post I’m in awe of the blackberries that seem to grow across every fence, brambling their way through the hedges of this Lake Washington neighborhood. The berries are fat and glossy. I can’t seem to stop myself from plucking the ripest of them as I explore the alleys and side streets of these lake view hillsides. My fingers are stained with their juice. It’s a rather delightful way to pass a sunny Seattle afternoon.

I’ve discovered that here in Washington there are three different kinds of blackberries that can be locally foraged and only one of them is a native species. This type is known as the Creeping or Trailing Blackberry. It’s a low growing vine-like plant that, as you can guess by its name, creeps along the ground. I’ve heard they’re the sweetest (and the smallest) of the three varieties, but they’re not too common in the city. So I’ll have to save this blackberry for another day and another sweet Blackberry Old-Fashioned cocktail.

Of the two imported varieties found in and around Seattle the first is the Cut-Leaf Blackberry and it does indeed have an indented leaf, more like a maple than a beech. The main difference (besides the leaf shape) is that this blackberry produces berries that ripen all at once, then drop to the ground. I didn’t find any of these blackberries, I guess they’re too messy for most folks to tolerate.

Himalayan BlackberryBut I did find the Himalayan Blackberry. It’s the the largest and most prominent of the three. If you’ve live in Washington, you’ve probably encountered thickets of this delectable but challenging plant in many parts of the city (both wild and cultivated). I guess these canes can be a bit invasive. I’ve heard complaints about its aggressive growing habit. But I will say this – if you find a good patch of ripening Himalayan Blackberries, you can collect more than you’ll know what to do with in just a few minutes. Which is why I decided to make a Blackberry Old-Fashioned when cocktail hour rolled around this evening.

Blackberry Old-Fashioned Cocktail

When you think of fruit from the Great Northwest apples and cherries come to mind, but berries have a charm that I find very appealing in a cocktail. I thought long and hard about making a blackberry daiquiri. It’s warm here and rum is so summery. However, in the end I succumbed to the classic combination of whiskey and blackberries. When it comes to a Blackberry Old-Fashioned you have two ways to go. You can make a blackberry flavored simple syrup with a little bit of cinnamon, orange peel, and vanilla or muddle the berries in the classic style with sugar and Angostura bitters. Once you’ve either made the syrup or pressed the berries just add two or three ounces of rye whiskey, ice, and stir. Garnish with a few more fresh whole blackberries.

The beauty of the Old-Fashioned cocktail is that it’s just a starting point: You could easily swap in peaches or nectarines. Blueberries pair just as well with whiskey as blackberries do. Which might surprise you. When it comes to summer fruit, most people stick with white spirits like vodka, gin, and rum, but this Blackberry Old-Fashioned will show you that brown spirits can be just as enjoyable with summer’s bounty. GREG

Himalayan Blackberry

Blackberry Old-Fashioned

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Blackberry Old-Fashioned


  • ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2–3 dash Angostura bitters (or to taste)
  • whole fresh blackberries (as needed for muddling and garnishing)
  • 3–4 medium ice cubes
  • 2–3 ounce rye (or bourbon if you prefer)
  • club soda (optional)
  • large, wide orange peel strip


Place sugar in the bottom of an Old-Fashioned glass. Add two or three dashes of Angostura bitters and three blackberries. Muddle until the mixture until sugar is dissolved. Add ice cubes to the glass and stir.

Pour in 2 or 3 oz straight rye then add a splash of club soda (if using); stir again. Twist an orange peel over the top, garnish with additional whole berries (to taste) and serve with a stir stick.

Blackberry Old-Fashioned Cocktail