Food & Drink

Sloe berry liquors span cultures and cocktails

Using Pacharán instead of sloe gin, the Basque Fizz is a slightly different take on the classic Sloe Gin Fizz.
Using Pacharán instead of sloe gin, the Basque Fizz is a slightly different take on the classic Sloe Gin Fizz.

A reader recently wrote to me asking about a classic cocktail called a “Slow Gin Fizz.” I wrote her back, saying that the Sloe Gin Fizz is indeed a classic cocktail, but spelled with an e, not a w, referring to the sloe berry, the fruit of the blackthorn shrub. The British steep these berries in gin and sugar to make sloe gin.

However, the blackthorn shrub is found in other parts of Europe, and sloe berry liquor is made pretty much wherever it grows. In Italy, it’s called bargnolino. France makes crème de prunelle, and Germany produces schlehenikör.

At Capitol Bar, I have none of these liquors in stock, including sloe gin. But I do have a seldom-used bottle of Pacharán, which anyone who is Basque will know is a liquor made from sloe berries and anisette.

So I went to work on crafting what I will call a Basque Fizz. It’s a very simple drink to make, and one that is perfect for hot summer days since sloe berry liquors only have 25 percent alcohol by volume. Similar to the Pimm’s cup, this drink will go down easy, but you won’t feel the effect so much as you’ll enjoy the flavor. If you are into foamy drinks, you can add an egg white, but I don’t feel this needs it.

As for Pacharán (or Patxaran if you’re Basque), it is readily available in this Basque-rich state. Baines is likely the brand you will find. Most liquor stores will carry it, but call ahead to be sure.

Kevin Hopper can be found shaking Basque Fizzes at Capitol Bar in Boise.

Basque Fizz

2 ounces Baines Pacharán

1/2 ounce lemon juice

1/4 ounce simple syrup

Seltzer water

In a cocktail shaker, add all the ingredients except the seltzer and fill with ice. Shake for 30 seconds and strain into a Collins glass (with or without ice, your choice). Top off the drink with seltzer water and garnish with a maraschino cherry.

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