A pile of them had been hanging out on our desks for a week or more, tiny pleated husks filled with ... fruit? I wasn't sure. Alice told me these were gooseberries grown by her mother; I was a gooseberry virgin. I peeled the papery husk away and bit the sunshine-colored fruit: It was gently sweet but with tart and apricoty undertones. The flavor was hard to describe, but I thought immediately of turning it into some kind of drink.
The quickest way to imbibe cape gooseberries (also known as Peruvian ground cherries) would be to make a simple syrup, which I did with the fistful I took home from the office. Serendipity had also recently delivered a bottle of Vermont's first white whiskey — an unaged whiskey straight from the still, sans barrel aging — made by Vermont Spirits in Quechee. It's called Black Snake, it's distilled from Vermont corn, and it's clear, roundand warming — almost as if it has an invisible vein of cinnamon — and slightly sweet. Imagine a softer blanco tequila, a much more flavorful vodka, a spirit whose flavor is as unusual as gooseberries and whose versatility is kind of thrilling.
Adulterating Black Snake with anything too intense seems vulgar. Yet gooseberry syrup, with its golden hue and stone fruit qualities, cuddles against Black Snake as if trying to spoon. Gooseberries, welcome to my world.
Baby Snake (makes one drink)
1/5 ounce white whiskey, such as Black Snake
0.5 ounce ginger liqueur, such as Domaine Canton
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon gooseberry simple syrup*
Dash of citrus bitters
2 sprigs of rosemary: one to shake, one to garnish
Gooseberry for garnish
Fill a shaker with ice. Add whiskey, ginger liqueur, lemon juice, simple syrup, bitters and rosemary sprig. Shake hard to combine. Strain into coupe glass and garnish with gooseberry (it will fall to the bottom, like an anchor) another rosemary sprig.
* To make gooseberry simple syrup: In a saucepan, combine 1 cup of dehusked gooseberries with 1/2 cup sugar; mash gooseberries into sugar to release juices. Add 1/2 cup water and bring to a simmer until sugar dissolves. Let cool, then strain through cheesecloth into a jar. Simple syrup will keep roughly two weeks in the refrigerator.