Cocktails That Complete Me: The Bramble

By Jason Wilson

The Bramble. (Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)

Even though it seems like it, not every one of the 100 must-drink, classic cocktails on The List is an old-timey recipe dating from the early 20th century. At least one drink I'd never tried before hails from what is widely considered the Dark Age of Cocktails: the 1980s. That, of course, is the infamous era of the film "Cocktail" -- with Tom Cruise in his flair bartending glory -- as well as such drinks as the Fuzzy Navel, Sex on the Beach, Slippery Nipple and the Red-Headed Slut. Anyway, the cocktail I introduced to myself this week is called the Bramble. Now, there are two good reasons why I've never tasted this cocktail before. First, it was created in the mid-1980s in London, by a bartender named Dick Bradsell at Fred's Club in Soho. At that time, I was in high school in New Jersey (probably drinking tall boys while hair metal played on the boom box) so I can only imagine that people sipped on the Bramble while they danced in their skinny ties to the synthesizers of Depeche Mode or Flock of Seagulls or Culture Club or Spandau Ballet. Ah, New Romanticism. The second, and likely main, reason that I never had a Bramble is because it calls for a very obscure ingredient called creme de mure. Creme de mure is blackberry liqueur; its cousins would be creme de cassis, the black-currant liqueur, and creme de framboise, the raspberry liqueur. You can definitely find creme de mure on liquor shelves -- Massenez brand is the most widely available and the best -- but it's not exactly on the tip of people's tongues.

Anyway, I mixed up a Bramble last week, in the middle of a cold snap. The timing was a little discordant -- the Bramble is definitely a summer tipple -- but the drink is delicious. Even though creme de mure is thick and sweet, the generous amount of gin provides an interesting botanical quality, and the lemon juice keep things light and bright. There are different preparations of this drink, but I like the traditional way of shaking everything but the creme de mure, and then drizzling the liqueur on top. The Bramble is living proof that not every cocktail from the 1980s sucked. Bramble 1 serving This cocktail was created in the mid-1980s by London bartender Dick Bradsell, and it's surprising that it hasn't gained more popularity on this side of the Atlantic. One reason is surely that the key ingredient, creme de mure -- a blackberry liqueur -- is not so easy to find. Look for Massenez brand, which is of good quality. Some say creme de mure is too heavy to drizzle over the drink. Spirits columnist Jason Wilson doesn't agree with them, but feel free to mix it in with other ingredients, if desired. We found it at Ace Beverage in Northwest Washington (202-966-4444). Adapted from a recipe at Ice 2 ounces gin 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice 1/2 ounce simple syrup (see NOTE) 1/2 ounce creme de mure (blackberry liqueur) Lemon slice, for garnish 2 or 3 blackberries, for garnish Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Add the gin, lemon juice and simple syrup. Shake well, then strain into a rocks or old fashioned glass filled with crushed ice. Drizzle the creme de mure over the top of the drink. Garnish with lemon slice and the blackberries. Serve with a short straw. NOTE: To make simple syrup, combine 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a slow rolling boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes. Transfer to a heatproof container and let cool to room temperature.

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