Can you believe it’s already September? Time to start closing up the pool for the year, pulling out our long-sleeved shirts from storage, and waving goodbye to our long, late hours of sunshine. Butternut squash and cinnamon season is just around the corner, but I’m not ready to go full-on Fall-flavored crazy just yet. I refuse to let go of my boozy lemonades and buckets of berries in favor of pumpkin-spiced lattes and apple-picking. I refuse.
Instead, I’ll update the drink I’ve been enjoying for the past few months. We’ve still got a bit of blackberry season left, which means it’s time to use those juicy, ripe fruits in everything we can dump them into, and vodka-spiked lemonade is the perfect base. With just few leaves of fresh sage, the drink goes from summery to September-worthy! But don’t worry, the sage is not overwhelming– it lends a subtle, woodsy earthiness to balance the sweetness and tartness of the berries. It’s just as delicious as it sounds.
The first step in making Boozy Blackberry Sage Lemonade is making simple syrup. Simple syrup is a mixture of water and sugar that has been reduced, and it’s used in many cocktails (and nonalcoholic drinks) to add sweetness without having undissolved crystals of sugar floating around. Conveniently, it’s also easy to flavor the simple syrups with berries and herbs, which gives a much stronger taste than simply adding the raw ingredients to the drink. After the water, sugar, blackberries, and sage have been cooked together, I strain out the solids and let the simple syrup cool in the refrigerator. Not only does this step prevent the simple syrup from warming up the rest of the drink, it also allows the flavors to develop further as it cools!
Then, it’s time to juice the lemons. In order to get the most juice out of my lemons, I press my palm on top of them, one at a time, and firmly roll them against the counter top. This helps to loosen everything up so I don’t have to work quite as hard to juice them. I like to use my citrus reamer to easily get out all of that juice without having to worry about picking out seeds. If you don’t have a reamer, squeezing the lemons over a strainer will also help to catch the seeds so you don’t wind up with them floating around in your drink.
I mix together the simple syrup, lemon juice, and water to make a strong lemonade, and then add vodka in to taste. I tend to go light on the vodka if I’m serving the drinks to a crowd, but keep the bottle nearby in case anyone wants a stiffer drink. You can also use rum, tequila, whiskey, or bourbon in your Boozy Blackberry Sage Lemonade if you prefer! It will work well with whatever you have on hand.
For the Blackberry Sage Simple Syrup:
- 2 cups water
- 1 heaping cup blackberries
- 6 leaves fresh sage, torn and bruised
- 1 1/2 cup sugar
For the Lemonade:
- Juice of 6 lemons
- 8 cups water
- Vodka, to taste
- 3/4 cup blackberries
- 1 lemon, sliced
- Fresh sage leaves
- In a medium pot, combine the water, blackberries, sage, and sugar. Heat over medium-high, stirring occasionally, and bring to a boil. Let the mixture boil for 2 minutes, mash the blackberries with a wooden spoon, and then reduce to a simmer. Let the syrup simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool, then strain out the blackberries and sage. Put the simple syrup in the refrigerator to cool completely.
- In a large container, combine the lemon juice, simple syrup, water, and vodka, to taste. Add ice to keep the mixture cool. Garnish with blackberries, lemon slices, and fresh sage. Serve.