August 29, 2009


Blackberry Hooch

Perhaps I got a little carried away with the blackberries at Underwood Family Farm and picked more than a reasonable amount. I fear my fingers are permanently stained. Life lesson number 234: when life gives you blackberries make blackberry hooch.

The variety of blackberry booze sitting on my kitchen counter at this moment is mesmerising, a vision of lavender, purple and magenta. All manner of experiments are under way: blackberry gin, blackberry-apple vodka, blackberry-lime vodka and other spirited concoctions. Come Christmas there will be no end of festive libations to drink and give away.

Making this is a cinch and it’s fun so be sure to wear your party hat. Experimentation is the name of the game. You’re part mad scientist, and part mixologist and there are no persnickety canning rules.

Once you start making flavored alcohols its hard to stop; the work is minimal and the rewards great. You don’t even have to turn the stove on. But patience helps. It can be hard to wait the requisite time before dipping into the blackberry juice for a tipple.


  • As you can see from the photos I label and date every jar, listing the ingredients on the tag (masking tape works well too). It's wonderful to have a record of your experiments.
  • The amount of sugar is up to you. Personally I don't like mine very sweet. I like about 4 tablespoons/ 1/2 gallon. You can always add more sugar, but can't take it away.
  • I use Ball wide mouth 1 gallon jars.
  • I think the flavors are optimal at three months, but this is a matter of taste. Some people let it steep for only two weeks and are thrilled with their results.
  • Further aging , after straining at 3 months, produces more of a liqueur/brandy product. Make enough so that you can squirrel away at least one bottle for holiday 2010.


1/2 gallon


  • 4 cups fruit
  • 8 cups alcohol (vodka or gin)
  • sugar to taste


  1. Combine ingredients in a large glass jar or jug. Cover and shake gently.
  2. Store in a cool dark place shaking lightly occasionally. Taste after four weeks. At this point you may want to add more sugar.
  3. At three months strain through cheesecloth, reserving the berries for another use. Strain a second time through a coffee filter.
  4. Decant into bottles with tight fitting lids . Be sure to label, especially if you have made more than one variety.
  5. At this point you have a delicious fruity flavored alcohol which you can choose to consume or further age for 3 months- 12 months. The aging process produces more of a liqueur. Hopefully you have made enough that you can do both.



  • 4 cups blackberries
  • no sugar


  • 4 cups blackberries
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • peeled zest of one lime


  • 4 cups blackberries
  • 2 tablespoons sugar


  • 2 cups blackberries
  • 2 cups peeled cored chopped apple


  • 4 cups blackberries
  • 6 cardamom pods lightly crushed
  • 2 tablespoons sugar


  1. Good Monring Nina,

    Have you ever tried making Rumtopf? If you Google it it will come up quite a few times, it is layering on sugar and soft fruits over the season, for an entire year, by years end you have a mushy fruit concoction that is great on ice cream or put into cakes, but you have a wonderful liquer also.
    Now I have taken single fruits and made just blackberry sugar and rum, but my personal favorite is Sour Cherry Rum and sugar.
    I want to try yours though, you know it is amazing, I rarely will drink much of what I make myself, however I give it for gifts at christmas and everyone seems to love them.


    Mitchell Webster
    Heritage Basket Studio & Chair Caning
    100 Pennie Layne Apt. A
    Bridgewater, Virginia 22812


  2. nina,
    i'm going to try the blackberry lime vodka- won't that make a heavenly gimlet?
    by the way, we had your tangy and delicious corn relish on barbequed dogs. beat the hell out of catsup and mustard!
    off to find some more mason jars,

  3. Mitchell,

    I am going to try rumtoph. Is it very sweet? I agree it's wonderful to give as a gift, but I also love using it in the kitchen. A little blackberry brandy can be the secret ingredient in all sorts of things,savory sauces , desserts etc..

  4. I just made two bottles of blackberry/brandy and its the best drink I have ever had. The blackberry takes the edge off the brandy. We serve it over vanilla ice cream but its nice over ice too. I love the combinations you offer here though. Next time I get some berries, I'm going to try some of your recipes.

  5. Linda,
    Please share your recipe!

  6. Nina
    My recipe is very simple. 3 cups of brandy, 3 cups of blackberry (I used fresh picked black caps for one bottle and fresh picked blackberry for the other). Steep together for one month in a sealed jar in a cool dark place. Make sure the berries are submerged at all times.
    After one month, strain through a muslin lined sieve then squeeze any excess off the berries then strain again. This helps with any cloudiness.
    In the meantime, have ready a cooled simple syrup. 1 cup of water to 1 cup of sugar. When this is cooled, add to the brandy, mix well and bottle.
    It is ready immediately to drink but it tasted much nicer after about a week.
    I hope you enjoy this! Like I said originally, on vanilla ice cream, over ice as an after dinner drink but also I have added it to cakes and pies but in very small amounts.
    I have also done thyme vodka and another vodka that I added herbs in my garden over the course of two weeks or so and then added fennel and finally two days before straining, I added a very small amount of lavender. It ended up tasting like Ouzo. I actually wrote that down somewhere. Happy to share if you are interested.

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  8. May I ask what kind of brandy you used? Does it matter? I would love to post your recipe for fennel vodka! How was your thyme vodka? I made mint vodka but I think I let it steep too long and it was an awful color, so I need to rework that one.

  9. Hi Nina
    It doesn't matter what kind of brandy you use. I used E&J which is a cheap brandy. I always use cheap vodka (whatever is on sale) but the proof has to be 80% or higher if you can find it.
    I am going out of town, but you can find a writeup on the fennel vodka here:
    I wrote down my actual notes on how I made it. Feel free to turn it into a recipe. I added the lavender portion two days prior to distilling which is not in the write-up. Lavander can dominate so please use it sparingly unless you realy like it. I also made a lavender liqueur which is divine but can be sickly sweet. Its somewhere on my blog too.
    The thyme vodka is fantastic! I add it to stew and drink it but my intent was medicinal (good for coughs).
    Anyhow, if you have questions I will be back on Monday. I hope you enjoy the recipe!

  10. In preparation for my birthday, I added a chopped pineapple to a liter of vodka and let it sit in a big mason jar for a month. A week before my party, I dropped in two cayenne peppers from my garden. I didn't think the peppers would impart such a strong, fiery flavor in such a short amount of time, but the cocktail was REALLY HOT. I actually removed one of the cayennes before the party because I was afraid my guests' mouths would explode. But we ended up drinking every drop....probably because we're a bunch of lushes. Next time, only one cayenne pepper will be used. Or maybe I'll try half a habanero? Love your site.

  11. Jessie,
    You are a girl after my own heart. I too love the sweet/spicy combo. I did a Thai ginger/lemongrass simple syrup with Thai chilies that made a mean cocktail.
    Happy Birthday!

  12. Have you tried this method with stone fruit like peaches or plums or lychees (I just had a lychee champagne cocktail that was amazing....)

  13. In your Blackberry Hooch you said reserving the strained berries for another use. How have you used them and how did they turn our sounds interesting. can't wait to experiment thanks for the inspiration.

  14. Smell the vodka when you swirl it in the glass. Take small sips, and exhale through nose to fully appreciate its grainy aroma. This may sound fancy to you, but this is how vodka aficionados savour their plain vodka, along with delicious appetizers. what is vodka eye balling