To this day, the sweet smack of blackberries transports Lindsay Rae Burleson back to her childhood. The bartender spent sweltering summer afternoons plucking the fruit from bushes that lined the fence of her Highlands home when she was young. After picking and eating every ripe berry on her family’s property, she ventured into her neighbor’s yard for seconds.
“I’d get in trouble,” says Burleson, now a bartender and co-owner of Two Headed Dog, in Houston. “My mom always knew, ’cause my little face would be stained. Kids can’t hide it when they’re eating blackberries.” By the age of seven, she considered herself an authority in the berry-picking department.
“It got to the point where I knew which ones to pluck. I knew the berries that would be bitter—I wouldn’t pick those. Instead, I’d go for the ones that are super dark and almost falling off. Here I was thinking I was an expert forager, but really I was being a jerk kid who was eating everybody’s blackberries.”
Ever the bartender, Burleson is a fan of using blackberries in cocktails. She especially adores them in a margarita. “I think they’re something we don’t use enough of,” she says. “We often just go with crème de cassis in drinks instead of really experiencing these berries.”
The fruit is a central component of Burleson’s summer cocktail creation, Under the Texas Sun. The berries meld with bulb onions—another item the bartender “foraged” as a kid—in an easy-to-make syrup. (This combination might sound unsettling, but trust us, it’s delightful.) Add basil-infused vermouth, lemon, and vodka to the mix, and you have a bright, slightly herbal cocktail that’s refreshing and a lot of fun to sip.
Under the Texas Sun
4 or 5 basil leaves, plus extra sprig for garnish
1 ½ ounces vodka
1 ounce basil blanc syrup (or plain vermouth)*
¾ ounce wild growth blackberry syrup**
½ ounce lemon juice
1 ounce sparkling water
3 to 5 blackberries, for garnish (optional)
cocktail onion (optional)
- Place whole basil leaves in the bottom of a Collins glass and fill with ice.
- Pour all ingredients except for soda into a cocktail shaker.
- Add ice and shake.
- Strain mixture into the Collins glass and top with soda.
- Garnish with basil sprig and, if you’re feeling fancy, a skewer of blackberries and onion.
*For the basil blanc syrup:
750 milliliters (one bottle) white vermouth
20 basil leaves, stems removed
Pour vermouth into an airtight container and add basil leaves. Let sit at cool room temperature for 24 hours. Strain and rebottle the liquid, then use to add depth and flavor to Under the Texas Sun, plus Negronis, Manhattans, or even simple soda water and lemon.
**For the wild growth blackberry syrup:
3 cups fresh blackberries
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
2 bulb onions, chopped
1 cup water
Pour all ingredients into a medium saucepan and boil for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally so the sugar doesn’t burn. Turn off heat and stir well. Let cool. Transfer to a blender or use an immersion blender stick to blend, until mixture reaches a souplike consistency. Strain with a fine-mesh strainer to remove any onion bits or blackberry seeds. Pour into a storage container and refrigerate. Syrup will last one week.