Late summer is the season of abundance. The garden bursts with ingredients to be harvested and gathered. Meals are as simple as a loaf of crusty bread, a hunk of cheese, and a platter of sliced purple Cherokee tomatoes and crunchy cucumbers. At night the summer heat lingers like the persistent stickiness left from melon and popsicles.
My favorite summer activity has always been berry picking. Today we grow berries, but a certain little person picks everything in her reach. Luckily, our farm share has an additional berry share option, so we usually have plenty of berries to freeze. We recently received a couple pints of marionberries from the farm share. I froze most of them, but reserved a few for morning yogurt and for cocktails. I wanted to combine the berries with some red shiso from the garden. As much as I love shiso with onigiri, we really grow it for cocktails. I love the combination of fruit with shiso. Try combining sliced peaches or berries with a chiffonade of shiso, a drizzle of honey, olive oil, and vinegar and served on top of some fresh burrata or ricotta. Delicious!
When the shiso is full enough to pick, we get out the muddler to make a berry shiso smash, one of the easiest and tastiest drinks in our repertoire. It never disappoints.
We have been making variations of this cocktail since we lived in Berkeley, trying it with many kinds of berries and fruit, and with both green and red shiso. Red shiso is prettier and has a more pungent flavor than green shiso.
Berry Shiso Smash
This would also make a nice flavor base for water or soda, so please feel free to skip the alcohol.
Makes two cocktails
Mason jar with lid or cocktail shaker
Muddler or wooden spoon
8 - 10 blackberries or raspberries, or one juicy plum
3 - 4 shiso leaves
1.5 - 2 ounces simple syrup (I used shiso nasturtium syrup - see recipe below)
1.5 ounces lemon or lime juice
4 ounces gin, vodka, or bourbon
Optional: a splash or two of sparkling water
Add the berries, shiso, syrup, and citrus to a mason jar or cocktail shaker. Muddle gently. Add the booze and ice. Secure the lid and shake well. Strain through a mesh strainer into ice-filled rocks glasses, or use Collins glasses and top with soda. Garnish with shiso leaves and a berry.
Shiso Nasturtium Simple Syrup
This makes more than you need for the cocktail above. The earthy, anise notes of the shiso combines nicely with the sweet, peppery notes of nasturtium flowers.
Wooden spoon to stir and muddle
Bottle or jar to store syrup
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 - 3 shiso leaves
4 nasturtium flowers
In a small saucepan combine the water and sugar. Heat over medium low heat until the sugar is dissolved, about ten minutes. Add shiso and nasturtium; remove pan from heat. Give pan a little shake or stir. Let the mixture sit until it is cool. Muddle the botanicals in the syrup a bit with the wooden spoon. Strain into a bottle or jar. This will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.