Drinking the Farmers Market: Berries, Cherries, Chile Peppers and More

Farmers markets aren’t just for seasonal salads. Their bounty of fresh produce is a boon for cocktailians across the country. Grab your all-natural tote or hand-woven basket and get ready to stock up on fruits, vegetables and everything in between—because bottles aren’t the only bartending necessities. Every month we’ll help guide you through your local stalls and offer delicious recommendations for how to drink your way through your haul.

Here’s what to look for in July.

Berries: Black, Blue, Boysen, Rasp and Straw

Blueberries and raspberries are reaching their peak across the country, but westerners also get to enjoy early-season blackberries and late-season strawberries. If you’re lucky enough to call the Pacific Northwest home, look out for sweet, juicy, gigantic, local boysenberries. Grab a variety of whatever berries are available at your local market and muddle them into a Bramble.

Cherries

Cherries are a fickle stone fruit, available only briefly from late June through July. So grab them while you can, and muddle them into a Whiskey Smash or a Mojito. Extra points for scoring some hyper-seasonal sour cherries, whose lip-puckering juice is particularly great in place of (or in addition to) peach purée in a Bellini.

Peaches

Peaches are just coming into season in the North and are going strong in the South. If you are partial to peach cobbler for dessert, try the drink by the same name. Muddle peach slices with about a bar-spoonful of sugar in a shaker, add two to three ounces of whiskey or sherry, shake and strain into a Collins glass over crushed ice. Or, juice the peaches for extra-fresh Fuzzy Navels by cutting the orange juice in half and adding in peach juice.

Chile Peppers

Seasonal chile peppers add a spicy punch to cocktails and pair particularly well with naturally peppery tequila. Infuse blanco tequila with serranos or jalapeños for spicy Margaritas (be careful not to let the peppers sit in the tequila too long unless you like your Margaritas mouth-numbing), or muddle them into Bloody Marias.

Sweet Peppers

Bell peppers and other mild pepper varietals are surprisingly good muddled into a vodka Martini, for a vegetal take on the classic. In this case, we’re willing to make an exception to the rule and recommend shaking the drink.

Tomatoes

Purée plump, ripe tomatoes and strain (or don’t, if you like it chunky) into fresh juice for the best Bloody Marys of your life. Experiment with colorful heirloom tomatoes for gorgeous brunch creations, like yellow or green Bloodies.

Melons: Cantaloupes and Watermelon

Extra sweet cantaloupe is, of course, prosciutto’s best friend. But it also happens to be fantastic muddled into a Moscow Mule. Or, juice the melon and add a few ounces to your next Margarita. With its fruity flavor and refreshing crispness, watermelon is the ultimate summer fruit. We love it so much, we came up with three ways to transform the entire melon into crowd-pleasing cocktails.