Though Juneteenth has only recently been recognized as a federal holiday here in the States, some of us have been celebrating it for years. This Grape Tarragon Gin Spritzer tastes herbaceous thanks to the mild licorice flavor of tarragon, but it also has a refreshing floral quality from ripe, red grapes. It’s a liquid love letter lifted from the pages of Bryant Terry’s Black Food: Stories, Art, and Recipes from Across the African Diaspora, and it’s the best libation to celebrate Juneteenth.
What is Juneteenth?
Join me in celebrating Juneteenth with 18 other Black culinary creators. This year, we are honoring 19 Black American cookbook authors by recreating their recipes, amplifying their work, and sharing our connections to Freedom Day. Juneteenth marks our country’s second independence day, the final emancipation of those enslaved in the US announced in 1865. Share these recipes with your family and help us continue the legacy of celebrating progress. Additionally, you can easily follow each participant by using the hashtag #JuneteenthCookout2022 on Instagram.
This collaboration is brought to you by Eat the Culture.
What is a Grape Tarragon Gin Spritzer?
Spritzers are chilled drinks, often made with a light-colored wine (like whites or rosés) and carbonated or sparkling water. Sometimes, adding fruit syrups gives the spritzer a sweet flavor.
Bryant’s original Grape Tarragon Spritzer is actually a mocktail. Mocktails contain no alcohol, so they’re safe for the youngins. But, you know me, I like to liven up my libations, so this grape tarragon gin spritzer has a nice shot of Hendrick’s gin added to it. This recipe is intended for those of legal drinking age, by the way.
Spritzers are the ultimate summer cocktail. Because they are light, effervescent, and contain water, they’re perfect for sipping on sweltering days.
What do I need to make it?
You need red, seedless grapes, fresh tarragon, fresh lemon juice, sparkling water (or soda water), raw cane sugar, and gin to make this cocktail.
What Does Tarragon Taste Like?
Tarragon tastes slightly like licorice or anise. I emphasize “slightly” because people turn their noses up when I mention “licorice.” It’s such a mild flavor in this recipe that you’d be hard-pressed to detect unless you made it.
First, prepare the tarragon syrup. In a 2-quart pot, stir together the water, cane sugar (basically turbinado sugar), and the chopped tarragon. Bring this mixture to a gentle simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently. Once the mixture begins to simmer in the pot and the sugar is completely dissolved, remove the pot from the stove.
How Far Ahead Can I Make the Tarragon Syrup?
Strain the mixture and allow it to cool completely before adding it to the cocktail.
You can make this tarragon syrup a week in advance and store it in a covered container in the fridge.
What Kind of Grape is Best for This Recipe?
Anyone who knows anything about Juneteenth knows that red is the name of the game. We serve and enjoy red drinks and foods on Juneteenth because they remind us of the struggle of our enslaved ancestors. So, fittingly, red grapes are the best to use in this cocktail recipe.
Be sure to use red, seedless grapes, too. The seeds in grapes, when blended, tend to impart a bitter flavor to the drink.
Grab about 25 grapes and put them onto a small sheetpan. Put the sheetpan in the freezer and freeze these grapes for at least 2 hours. In this cocktail, the grapes act as ice, so you want them frozen solid. You can freeze the grapes up to 2 months ahead if you want to, but 2 hours is fine.
Blend the remaining grapes completely smooth once the grapes are frozen solid. Strain the grape juice from the skins and pulp. I use the back of a wooden spoon to press out as much juice as possible from the grapes.
I love that Bryant tells us to compost the skins and pulp. You have to be a good steward of the land.
Next, add the gin, then follow that with fresh lemon juice. You can replace lemon juice with lime juice here if you need to. You can also decrease the amount of gin you add to this drink.
How Far Ahead Can I Make the Grape Tarragon Base?
Finally, pour in the cold tarragon syrup. Bryant’s original recipe calls for only 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) of the tarragon syrup. I find that with the added gin, using the full cup of syrup balances out the flavors more. You can use 1/4-1 cup (60-250 milliliters) depending on your taste preference.
You can prepare this grape tarragon base a week ahead and store it in a pitcher in the fridge until you’re ready to serve it.
Can I Replace the Soda Water with Another Sparkling Water?
Stir in the sparkling mineral water just before serving.
You can replace sparkling mineral water with soda water, tonic water, or a sparkling wine like Moscato.
What Glass Should I Serve These Grape Tarragon Gin Spritzers In?
Serve these grape tarragon gin spritzers in glasses with a stem to avoid overheating them with your hands. The heat from your hand will warm the cocktail too quickly, which makes the drink underwhelming. Truth be told, spritzers are usually served in a white wine glass.
Add a handful of the frozen grapes to the glasses. This recipe makes 4 to 6 spritzers so just divide the grapes among the glasses equally. Pour the sparkling grape tarragon mixture over your grape ice, then garnish the cocktail with a sprig of tarragon and get ready to toast.
Can I Make These a Grape Tarragon Mocktail?
Bryant’s original version of this spritzer is a mocktail, so you can absolutely omit the gin.
My kiddos love to drink the alcohol-free grape tarragon spritzers while we sip our adult versions.
Can I Turn This Recipe Into a Grape Tarragon Gin Spritzer Pitcher Cocktail?
You can totally turn this grape tarragon spritzer recipe into a pitcher drink to serve a crowd.
Quadruple the measurements and throw everything into a pitcher. Drop the frozen grapes into the glasses just before you plan to serve them.
What Other Spirits Work Well in This Cocktail?
You can swap the gin in this recipe for vodka, white rum, or even cachaça. Additionally, crisp white sparkling wines, like sauvignon blanc, young rieslings, or pinot grigio are other, less boozy options. You can also swap the gin for sweeter wines like Moscato or rosés.
A (Platonic) Love Letter to Bryant Terry:
Thank you for your epic work of food entitled Black Food: Black Food: Stories, Art, and Recipes from Across the African Diaspora. In it, you managed to gather the world’s most talented Black food writers while creating what feels like a worldwide family reunion. I saw recipes I grew up eating, like Reina’s Píque, and recipes I’m dying to try, like Nicole’s Cocoa-Orange Fish. What spoke to my bibliophilic heart the most was your inclusion of writings from the bards of Black literature. You created an anthology of the heart that I will cherish and pass on to my children and grandchildren.
Don’t Forget to Check Out the Rest of the Juneteenth Virtual Cookout Participants
Black Pepper Strawberry Slab Pie by Dash of Jazz from the book Watermelon and Red Birds
Grilled Pork Porterhouse Steaks by Food Fidelity from the book Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ: Every Day Is a Good Day
Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Spicy Vegetable Relish by Kenneth Temple from the book In Bibi’s Kitchen
Grape-Tarragon Spritzer by Sense and Edibility from the book Black Food: Stories, Art, and Recipes from Across the African Diaspora
All-Green Everything Salad w/ Creamy Sage Dressing by That Green Lyfe from the book Vegetable Kingdom
Grape Tarragon Gin Spritzersat Sense & Edibility
- fine mesh sieve
For the Tarragon Syrup (begin 1 hour ahead)
- 1 cup (215 grams) raw cane sugar
- 1/4 cup packed (2 bunches) tarragon chopped
- 1/2 cup (125 milliliters water
For the Spritzer
- 2 pounds (900 grams) red seedless grapes stems removed
- 1 cup (8 ounces or 250 milliliters) gin or to taste
- 2 medium lemons juiced (3 tablespoons or 45 milliliters)
- Tarragon Syrup
- 4 cups (1 litre) sparkling water or club soda
- 6 sprigs tarragon
Make the Tarragon Syrup (See Notes)
- In a 2-quart pot, stir together the water, cane sugar, and the chopped tarragon. Bring this mixture to a gentle simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently.
- Once the mixture begins to simmer in the pot and the sugar is completely dissolved, remove the pot from the stove. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve and allow it to cool completely in the refrigerator before adding it to the cocktail.
Prepare the Grape Tarragon Base
- Separate 30 grapes from the rest and put them onto a small sheetpan. Put the sheetpan in the freezer and freeze these grapes for at least 2 hours or until frozen solid.
- Add the remaining grapes to a blender and blend them until they are completely broken down. Strain the grape juice from the skins and pulp through a fine-mesh sieve into a 1-liter pitcher, using the back of a wooden spoon to press out as much juice as possible from the grapes.
- Add the gin, fresh lemon juice and the chilled tarragon syrup. Stir the sparkling water into the grape tarragon mixture just before serving.
Assemble the Grape Tarragon Gin Spritzers
- Add 5 frozen grapes to each glass. Pour the Grape Tarragon Spritzer mixture into the glass.
- Garnish the cocktail with a sprig of tarragon and enjoy responsibly.
Swaps and Substitutions
- Replace the lemon juice with lime juice here if you prefer.
- You can replace sparkling water with soda water, tonic water, or a sparkling wine like Moscato.
- You can swap the gin in this recipe for vodka, white rum, cachaça, sauvignon blanc, riesling, pinot grigio, Moscato or rosé.
- Omit the gin to make this a mocktail.
Tips and Techniques
- You can make the tarragon syrup a week in advance and store it in a covered container in the fridge.
- Be sure to use red, seedless grapes, as the seeds in grapes, when blended, tend to impart a bitter flavor to the drink.
- You can freeze the grapes up to 2 months ahead if you want to, but 2 hours is fine.
- You can prepare the grape tarragon base a week ahead and store it in a pitcher in the fridge until you're ready to serve it.
- Bryant Terry's original recipe uses only 1/4 cup of the Tarragon Syrup. I found that I like the entire cup added to the drink. If you prefer a lighter tarragon flavor (or a less sweet spritzer) you can use 1/4 cup.
- Serve these grape tarragon gin spritzers in glasses with a stem to avoid overheating them with your hands.
Pitcher Instructions (makes 24 servings):
- 4 cups (860 grams) raw cane sugar
- 1 cup packed (8 bunches) tarragon, chopped
- 2 cups (500 milliliters) water
- 8 pounds (3 kilograms) red, seedless grapes (stems removed)
- 1 1/2 cups (350 milliliters) gin
- 8 lemons, juiced (3/4 cup or 175 milliliters)
- 1 gallon (16 cups or 3 liters) sparkling water
- fresh tarragon sprigs to garnish
- Prepare the Tarragon Syrup as instructed above and allow it to cool completely.
- Separate, then freeze 1 pound of the grapes until solid, or about 3 hours.
- Blend the remaining grapes in a blender on high speed for 1 1/2 minutes, or until completely broken down. Pass the grapes through a fine-mesh sieve to extract the juice.
- Pour the grape juice into a large pitcher. Add the gin, tarragon syrup, lemon juice, and finally, the sparkling water.
- Allow your guests to add the frozen grapes to their glasses, then top with the grape tarragon gin spritzer.