Carolina Blues Blueberry Cocktail

Vivian Howard Blueberry Sauce Cocktail
Carolina Blues Blueberry CocktailMatt Taylor-Gross

A long, cooling cocktail, the Carolina Blues follows the classic Tom Collins blueprint, swapping simple syrup for shrub, soda for prosecco, and lemon juice for lime. The blueberry shrub in this recipe is actually North Carolina chef Vivian Howard's blueberry barbecue sauce, which she uses to glaze chicken, but its makeup is similar enough to a shrub that it can pull double duty.

If you don't have time to make Howard's barbecue sauce, you can buy it here. Alternatively, you can quickly make a proto-shrub by simmering a couple of cups of mashed blueberries with a cup of cider vinegar for ten minutes, then strain and bottle it for future cocktail endeavors.

Carolina Blues Blueberry Cocktail
A tart, refreshing riff on a classic Tom Collins with a blueberry twist.

For the Blueberry Shrub

  • 3 cups blueberries
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar, divided
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 14 tsp. chile flakes
  • 1 3-inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 bay leaf

For the Cocktail

  • 1 12 oz. gin
  • 34 oz. lime juice
  • 34 oz. blueberry shrub
  • 1 12 oz. prosecco
  • Blueberries, for garnish
  • 1 lime wheel

Instructions

  1. Make the shrub: Put the blueberries and 2 tablespoons of the vinegar in a food processor. Pulse the berries just to break them up and get some juices flowing.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the pulverized berries with the remaining vinegar, sugar, chile flakes, cinnamon stick, and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, reduce the heat to low, and then cover the pot. Cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  3. Carefully transfer the hot sauce to a blender. Remove the knob from the top of the blender lid and cover with a dish towel to prevent an explosion. Blend the shrub to get it as smooth as possible, then pass it through a fine mesh strainer, directly back into the pan. Simmer the sauce over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until it has reduced by about one-third of its original volume (25–30 minutes). It should coat the back of a spoon and have the viscosity of maple syrup. Let the shrub rest, at least overnight, before using. It will keep for months, covered, in the refrigerator.
  4. Make the cocktail: In a Collins glass, add gin, lime juice, and shrub over ice, stirring briefly to incorporate. Add prosecco and garnish with blueberries and a lime wheel.