The call for a drink that’s “fruity” is more often than not accompanied by the addendum, “but not too sweet.”
Eye roll-inducing as that especially vague request may be, it’s worth remembering that sour mix was for years a backbar staple (and in some places, it still is). But on a brighter note, it can be considered a nod to how many fruit-forward drinks, both classic and modern, straddle the line so carefully between tropical and tart. When done right, “fruity, but not too sweet” yields a drink that’s ultimately both shameless and refreshing, whether it’s crisp, bright and studded with berries, or citrusy and creamy with a tiki bent.
Among the classics, there are a number of cocktails that answer the call, but among the oldest and most satisfying is the gin-based Clover Club, a pre-Prohibition stalwart that gets its deep pink hue from a measure of raspberry syrup. Equally crowd-pleasing is Dick Bradsell’s modern classic the Bramble, a drink that reads like a blackberry-inflected cross between a gin sour and a cobbler. Joaquín Simó’s pomegranate-driven riff on the Daiquiri, meanwhile, stands as a sweet-tart, fall-ready twist on the perennial summer favorite.
Another flavor realm to explore within the category is that of tiki, which boasts a number of drinks that build on additions of pineapple, or in many cases, passionfruit. In his Absent Stars, for example, Nick Detrich of Cane & Table balances the latter with apricot, rhum agricole and Campari, whereas down in Miami, the Broken Shaker team puts a tropical twist on a simple sherry sour. Their Walk This Way, a mix of cream sherry, passionfruit purée, hibiscus syrup and lemon juice, is a veritable flower bed of a cocktail that offers just the right amount of sweet.
Fruity, But Not Too Sweet