I first published this post a couple of years ago but when I offered these to guests at my home recently, they claim to have never seen them on my blog. I’m not surprised; a couple of years in blog time is a LONG time and I’ve gained a lot of new readers in the interim. So I’m going to start to check out my archives and probably once a month bring back a favorite. I’ve made a lot of great cocktails since I started Friday Cocktails almost 5 years ago and this Blackberry Smash is certainly one of them!
From July, 2014
I am regularly invited to come to an event in Denver to meet a restaurant owner or a cookbook author and most recently was invited to meet the owner of Garrison Brothers, a Texas Bourbon Whiskey distillery. While I enjoy these excursions; they are timely, even more so since I’ve moved 30 minutes further South from Denver proper. A trip into the city is now a 2 hour roundtrip affair and I’m saying no more often. So, when I was contacted by the PR firm representing Garrison Brothers Bourbon Whiskey and it was suggested that Charlie Garrison would be happy to come to ME; I was in! I’m so glad Charlie made that trip. We had a wonderful conversation, I learned a lot more about bourbon and yes, I got to sample the Garrison Brothers product like a big
boy girl…straight up! Probably my first real experience with ‘sippin’ whiskey since I am a cocktail maker and let me tell you, it was good. And Charlie and I had just enough to laugh and chat far longer than we expected!
Charlie is a friendly guy, no pretense at all and with the requisite Texas cowboy hat; even if he now lives in Arizona (well, sort of). He commutes between Arizona and Texas and it was a charming story of bourbon and family and well, in truth, keeping his wife happy. I had to respect that! I enjoyed the story of his brother having an idea and sharing it with Charlie and their father who both thought he was crazy and who were soon hopping on the crazy train and starting a business that some might call suspect. Bourbon? NOT in Kentucky? And that is a story but it was not without a conscious decision and from what I could tell; a really good one.
Garrison Brothers are a family owned and operated distillery out of Hill Country Texas that’s made from corn-to-cork, with organic grains grown on the property and Hill Country rainwater. They were the winner of the 2014 American Micro Whiskey of the Year Award and they pride themselves on the distinctive quality of each barrel and hand number and sign every single bottle that leaves the distillery. The art of making whiskey is expansive and I have a much greater respect for all of the craft artists in this genre. From what kind of grain is using to the securing of enough barrels; how the heat of Texas affects their product and the method for making it and how all of that contributes to the costliness of the enterprise. Still, when the outcome has a scent that is so aromatic and intoxicating that you were left wishing you had it piped into your home (now THAT’s an idea Charlie!) it truly is worth it.
Charlie brought two sample bottles for us to try. Well, for him to drink and me to try; I’m thinking he has tried plenty. They were the same bourbon but from two different years and the difference was evident; the color and taste of one year was both lighter and sweeter than the other year and Charlie explained that several things can affect that. The temperature, the grains used each year, the casks…everything together serves to create a bourbon that has an expected outcome of quality but with the opportunity for all of those components to make for slightly different color and flavor nuances each year. One thing the Garrison Brothers do that sets them apart is that their mix each year starts with sweet mash, not sour mash. Much like the starter from sour dough, bourbon distillers typically cull some of the mash from one batch to use as a component in the next batch (they even borrowed the sour name part from the sour dough bread process; sour mash is not sour at all). Garrison Brothers have chosen to not follow this tradition but start with new grains every year, i.e. sweet mash and the result makes for a bit sweeter and differently nuanced bourbon.
While bourbon whiskey of this caliber is most often enjoyed either straight up or over ice; I knew I wanted to make a cocktail. I chose to make a Blackberry Smash with the Garrison Brothers Bourbon Whiskey because I knew a super sweet girly girl cocktail would just be wrong with such a high quality bourbon. The tartness of some blackberries and a bit of mint, lemon and sugar really allows the bourbon to be forward and this was a most excellent cocktail. Though I sure enjoyed sipping and chatting with Charlie too so I’ll be doing that straight up business again.
Each year when it’s time to bottle, people from near and far volunteer to be a part of the process. Their reward? Yup..it’s booze! Allowed to partake while they’re working and more to take home, I’m certain for everyone the best rewards are memories of a lifetime. I was so tickled by the seal on the two bottles Charlie brought with him. One had a nice, even seal but the second bottle (on the left in photo above) was far off the mark. Why? Well most likely because that worker had imbibed a bit too much on his shift!
Want to try something special and unique? Search this one out. Served in some of Denver’s finer establishments it’s also now available locally in liquor stores too. Their distribution is growing but right now only available in select states. Keep asking…this is worth waiting for.
Blackberry Smash with Garrison Brothers Bourbon Whiskey
Because of the size of blackberry seeds, straining through the lid of a cocktail shaker was not efficient. I found it a better alternative to put a strainer over a small pitcher or medium bowl and strain using a medium kitchen strainer; from there I poured the mixture into an ice filled glass.
- 1/2 lemon, sliced
- 4 plump fresh blackberries
- Mint sprig
- 2 oz bourbon
- 1 oz simple syrup (Mix equal parts water with sugar and heat only until sugar dissolves. Cool before using)
- Muddle lemon slices, blackberries and mint in a cocktail shaker. Add bourbon and simple syrup and fill shaker with ice. Shake at least 10 times and strain into a short glass filled with ice.
- Garnish with mint.
I make at least a cup of simple syrup at a time; having it on hand in the refrigerator instead of having to make it and wait for it to cool is a great timesaver.
I was provided with bourbon from Garrison Brothers Distillery but all commentary is my own.