(Note: this post was originally published on August 8, 2019 and the photos were updated on May 2, 2021. It has since been updated with a few tweaks)
A Summer Gin Cocktail for Warm Nights
Each year as late spring rolls around, we migrate all our hang-outs to the deck and cherish every single warm evening we have there. We love to have friends over for grilling and chilling, and we love to have a peaceful date night just the two of us. Summer is so short in Vermont, so we really try to soak up every moment of it.
I love to make a special, colorful, seasonal cocktail to celebrate these magical evenings. One of my favorites: this stunning Blackberry Limoncello Gin Smash that's a bit sweet, a bit tart, and perfect for a summer BBQ. This summer-ready blackberry cocktail is one we find ourselves coming back to again and again because it's easy, special, and versatile.
The flavors in this pink, festive, summer gin cocktail are perfect for a warm evening. It unites floral gin with sweet-tart limoncello. Muddling in a few blackberries makes this combination extra special; they add both sweetness and tang, and the blackberry echoes the juniper berry in the gin. Plus, look at that color of this surprising limoncello gin cocktail- it's gorgeous!
This blackberry cocktail is a go-to for us during the spring and summer. I start making it in April or May, when the weather is getting warm and I have lemon on the mind. But it shines all summer long, and I always return to it in late July, when we have local blackberries. You'll see numerous variations in this post because this special limoncello cocktail makes such frequent appearances on our deck.
Taming the Sweetness of Limoncello
Limoncello is a sweet-tart lemony liqueur made primarily in southern Italy. Limoncello has always been a bit of a conundrum for me. I'm of Italian descent and I adore limoncello, but the reality is that I find it way too sweet.
My solution for years has been to mix it with something stronger, usually gin. It cuts the sweetness without interfering with the flavor, allowing a limoncello cocktail to work as a pre-dinner drink. It turns out that gin and limoncello are a match made in heaven. Gin tends to have a lot of floral, citrusy, and herbaceous notes, all of which pair nicely with lemon. Gin, usually 80 proof, is a good foil to the much sweeter, weaker limoncello. Dave and I are now both huge fans of the limoncello gin cocktail concept and have made many variations.
If you've had limoncello before, my guess is that you've mostly enjoyed it straight, as an after-dinner sip. If that has been your previous experience, I'm excited for you to try this limoncello cocktail. I hope it opens your mind to the many fun, fresh uses of this Italian liqueur!
One of the things I love most about this festive summer gin cocktail is that it can become so many different things. See all the various photos in this post for examples. In particular, I tend to make this blackberry cocktail in two main ways:
Refreshing summer sip. If you want a light, summery, approachable version of this limoncello gin cocktail, serve it over crushed ice and top it with a few ounces of tonic water. So refreshing! This is a great option for a hot evening, a picnic, or even a brunch. Feel free to scale down the amount of gin if you want a lower-alcohol version.
Elegant strong sip or martini. If you prefer a smaller, stronger version of this limoncello cocktail, omit the tonic water and serve it over a few large cubes instead of crushed ice. Or, you can go in even more of a martini direction by shaking it with ice and then serving it straight-up in a chilled coupe glass. This is a great option for a summer dinner party since it feels so special.
Not sure which version of this pretty blackberry cocktail to choose? Thankfully you don't have to; allow your guests to choose! I often make this cocktail customized to-order, allowing people to express their preferences. Having some options is a nice way to make sure everyone has something that works for them.
Ingredients and Substitutions
Here's what you'll need for this party-worthy limoncello gin cocktail, as well as some thoughts about variations. If you make any substitutions, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below.
Blackberries. Fresh are much better, but I've used frozen in a pinch too. This blackberry cocktail gets its distinct hue from the berries, so I don't suggest trying to substitute them.
Gin. I of course love Barr Hill Gin from Vermont, but use whatever you enjoy. You can adjust the amount of gin based on the kind of glass you want to use, the feel you're going for, and the time of day; see ideas above for how to make this summer gin cocktail work for any occasion and for different personal preferences.
Limoncello. This is the only sweetening agent, so feel free to taste and tweak as you see fit.
Tonic water. An optional topper for this limoncello gin cocktail; see thoughts above about different variations. You can also experiment with soda water for a different flavor profile.
Garnishes. I use a few additional blackberries. A lemon wedge would be nice too, and of course edible flowers would be great.
This seasonal blackberry cocktail is an ode to all things summer: icy gin beverages on the deck, bright tangy citrus, and plump juicy blackberries. Because lemon and gin are both so versatile, this cocktail pairs beautifully with everything from grilled fare to summery salads to potluck finger foods. We've even brought it on summer picnics and to outdoor concerts.
I hope you enjoy this limoncello cocktail as much as we have. As you can see from the numerous generations and styles of photos here, this one has been a summer go-to for us for years. Cheers to warm evenings outside and chilling on the deck with friends!
It makes me so happy to hear from you and see your creations! Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about this recipe. If you post a photo on Instagram, hashtag #TheRogueBrusselSprout and tag me (@TheRogueBrusselSprout) in the post text so that I'm sure to see it.
It's much more than just food. Together we'll explore seasonal ingredients and healthy recipes. But we'll also delve into health and wellness topics, self care tips, books, podcasts, and the natural world. This newsletter is all about leading a more colorful, plant-filled, holistic, and intentional life.
The most perfect summer gin cocktail! Sweet blackberries, tart limoncello, and floral gin come together for a surprising and super-seasonal cocktail that's wonderful for sipping on the deck all spring and summer long.