Blackberries are everywhere, especially in Southwest Portland, where, if you just walk along the roadside at the right time of year, you can collect a basket full of them, and there really is nothing better than a fresh Oregon berry. So plentiful are they that they’re considered, by some, a nuisance. The bushes themselves are full of thorns, grow faster than grapes, and if blackberries are on your property, you’re both super lucky to have a Summer bounty, but call your friends when it comes time to cut the bushes back. Unless, that is, you just want to let them grow and grow and, before you know it, there’s more berries in your yard than you can either care for or clean up.
If you don’t have berries in your yard, just take a little walk. The area around Taylors Ferry and Terwilliger is fertile ground for wild blackberries, and you don’t even have to go that far down the hill. It’s a dangerous walk along the busy road, but the berries are right along the roadside if you’re willing to climb into the ditch and collect them. Or head toward Tryon Creek and forage as you go. No matter which direction you choose, you’ll find berries.
Once you have fresh berries you collected yourself, you’ll likely never buy them from Safeway again. Oh sure, you’ll pick some up at the farmer’s market, they’re just as fresh and you don’t have to brave traffic and a ditch, but however you acquired them, you got some Oregon berries, and, with some Oregon made liquor, you also have a cocktail. The Taylors Ferry is a cocktail made with Oregon berries, and so named because of all you can forage within walking distance of any of those “Ferry” roads.
The Taylors Ferry was inspired by the Seersucker cocktail created by Brian Miller for Flor de Caña Rum. We like the idea of berries and rum, but where Miller selected strawberries, we use blackberries and vanilla. We also use lemon and cinnamon syrup, like the Seersucker, but add bitters to the mix for a little more lively finish, so let’s get to making the parts and pieces we’ll need for our adaptation.
Cinnamon syrup is exactly that. Simple syrup infused with cinnamon. We’ve used it before, and making it here is no different than elsewhere. To a saucepan, add 1 cup of granulated sugar, 1 cup of filtered water, and 2 cinnamon sticks. Break the cinnamon up a little before adding it to the pan, we wrap the cinnamon sticks in a paper towel and strike them with a meat tenderizer or hammer just enough to get a few big pieces. Bring everything to a boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer for 3 or 4 minutes. Then, remove from the heat, let cool, overnight if possible to really get all the best out of the cinnamon, then strain and bottle. Keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Next, we need vanilla extract. You could make your own by making a tincture from a vanilla seed, but that would take a week and the result would be vanilla extract. If you do want to make your own, you have some options. You can make it like any other tincture, with everclear and a vanilla bean, or you could try using high proof bourbon, which is spectacular, or even rum, which results in a vanilla like no other. Experiment, discover what you like, and keep a notebook. You’ll want to bake with it, too, but if you want to buy vanilla, select a real, pure extract of any variety. There’s not much of it in a Taylors Ferry, but it still should be homemade or high quality extract. Tahitian, Madagascar, and Mexican vanilla will all give different results, but one is no better than the other, so choose based on preference.
Check on the blackberries, make sure they’re in the fridge so they stay fresh because we’re not done. We need some cinnamon bitters, which you can buy, but if you’re up for it, you’ll need to make some tinctures first, and some of them will take well over a month, so plan ahead. Make the tinctures just like you made the vanilla extract, or the tinctures we’ve featured in other cocktails on The Portland Pour. Cinnamon bitters is made from 3 tinctures, cinnamon, orange, and cinchona bark. The cinchona bark tincture takes weeks and weeks to infuse, but it’s the bittering agent, so we kinda gotta wait.
Once you have your tinctures, make the bitters. The recipe here comes from the book, Handcrafted Bitters: Simple Recipes for Artisanal Bitters and the Cocktails That Love Them, by Will Budiaman. In a clean bowl, combine 2 oz cinnamon tincure, 1 1/2 orange tincture, 1/2 oz cinchona bark tincture, 2 ounces of water (adjust the water based on the proof of the alcohol used to make the tincture) and 1/4 oz rich simple syrup (simple syrup made with 2 parts sugar to 1 part water). Mix thoroughly and transfer to a dark colored glass bottle. Amber is your best choice for protecting the bitters from losing flavor because amber glass best blocks light from whatever’s behind it.
It’s berry time! You can now grab the rest of the ingredients, the lemon juice, the blackberries, of course, and a bottle of Eastside Distilling Below Deck Silver Rum. Below Deck Silver Rum is a clean, smooth, slightly sweet light rum which is exactly what we want for a Taylors Ferry. Anything more assertive, such as a Jamaican style rum, or a grassy, earthy agricole will smother the cinnamon and sort of mute the berry, so stick with a light rum. In fact, we recommend stopping by Portland Center Liquor Store, the official store of The Portland Pour, or the Eastside Distilling tasting room, and picking up a few bottles of Below Deck Silver Rum before you head out foraging. You never know what bounty you’ll find in the ditch, and you have to be ready, because there’s nothing worse than letting fresh Oregon berries go to waste.
In a cocktail shaker, muddle the blackberries.
Add the remaining ingredients, shake with ice, and serve up. Garnish with a lemon twist and a blackberry.
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