Tonic and limes make fine cocktails, but for ushering out the final hours of the Old Year I like to raise the bar a little.  These fruity, simple syrups will keep in the fridge for weeks and are very versatile:  you can mix them with tonic or club soda and the liquor of your choice, or with sparking wine (we like cava, prosecco, and a Portugese wine called vinho verde as affordable alternatives to champagne), or just with seltzer for a festive, non-alcoholic drink.

Blackberry-mint Syrup

1 quart fresh or frozen blackberries

1 1/2 c. sugar

1 c. water

1/4 c. fresh mint leaves (about 12)

Combine sugar, water, and berries in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid is slightly thickened and berries begin to break down.  Remove from heat, stir in mint leaves, and let steep 15 minutes.
Strain mixture through a fine-meshed sieve, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible, then refrigerate.  Serve chilled.

lemonsyrup2Simple Lemon Syrup

Yield: about 2 cups

1 1/2 c. sugar

1 c. water

1 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Bring sugar and water to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar.  Strain lemon juice into a heat-proof bowl, pour in sugar syrup, and stir to combine.  Let cool at room temperature, then refrigerate.  Serve chilled.

We have some cranberry-ginger shrub leftover from Christmas that we’ll be serving, too.  Happy New Year!