A tiny berry makes a big comeback
Author Millie Kerr
Wildly popular in Northern Europe, the tart, nutrient-packed black currant remains something of an unknown to most Americans—and with good reason. The U.S. banned the shrub’s cultivation for a century after the plant was found to host a tree-damaging virus. Luckily, resistant strains now thrive, allowing chefs and bartenders to revive a lost favorite.
“The superfruit works well with all base spirits and is lovely mixed with bubbly,” says Don Horrigan, cocktail creator and former bartender at Vermont’s Edson Hill hotel. His house-made black currant syrup, bottled as Sumptuous Syrups, is featured in the #CurrantlyTrending. Horrigan sources his berries from the Hudson Valley’s Walnut Grove Farm, where horticulturist Greg Quinn’s work to overturn New York’s ban has paved the way for the berry’s resurgence.
At Gigi Trattoria, in Rhinebeck, New York, dishes like duck in a currant-maple gastrique are complemented by cocktails such as the Currant Scofflaw, made with rye, vermouth, orange bitters, grenadine, and cassis syrup infused with black currant concentrate. “The citrus in the bitters lifts the flavor of the currants without making things overly acidic,” bartender Patrick Owens says.
At Seattle’s Needle & Thread, a speakeasy hidden inside the Tavern Law lounge, Michael Cadden pays homage to his childhood in currant-rich Eastern Washington with black currant toddies. On gray days, he garnishes them with tiki flames because, he says, “Warming elements transport you to a beach vacation.”