Wild Recipes

Foraged Staghorn Sumac Campari & Mezcal Negroni

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The inspiration for this recipe actually came from a seemingly unsuspecting breakfast item: a za’atar spice topped bagel. Tasting some of the tart and zingy flavors atop the bagel sent me down a curiosity hole about the flavors, which led me to realize that the sumac family (specifically Rhus coriraria) was the European cousin of the staghorn sumac, Rhus typhina, which I saw in abundance here in the US. Pairing this with my love of mezcal negronis, utilizing the tart, lemony and pleasantly bitter tones of the berries to make a homemade Campari just seemed like the logical next step. And of course, a negroni (or two) as the final conclusion.

Most people when seeing this plant first recognize its brightly colored, cone-shaped, red fruiting head of berries that distinctly point upward from the apex of the tree tip. Often, many assume this plant is invasive given how prolific it grows, as it can likely be found alongside highways, trails and in many urban and suburban parks. Fret not, the staghorn sumac is a small native, deciduous tree that is often found in dense clusters all across North America and fruits mature from August to October. Once you learn how to utilize these amazingly tart, sweet and tangy berries, you’ll never walk past a ripe stand again without cutting a few to take back to the kitchen and bar top.  

Serves: 16
Time to Make:
14 days
Also Works With: Chokecherries

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Foraged Staghorn Sumac Campari & Mezcal Negroni

Recipe by Brandon Dale
0.0 from 0 votes
Course: Wild RecipesCuisine: Cocktail


Prep time


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This Campari utilizes tequila as a base liquor to extract the flavors of the sumac berries. A milder liquor could be substituted such as vodka, but the pairing of the tequila-sumac Campari goes very nicely with the mezcal negronis. As with all foraging, do not collect from locations that are potentially hazardous (waste plants, adjacent to roadways, etc.) and be sure to know definitely what you are collecting is the plant of your interest through several forms of identification. Lastly, only remove the berries from plants, leave what you cannot use and forage responsibly.

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  • Staghorn Sumac Campari
  • 3 cups (750 ml) Tequila (silver, 100% high quality recommended)

  • 1 cup white sugar

  • 3 cups sumac berries

  • Red food coloring

  • Cheesecloth or strainer

  • Mezcal Negroni with Sumac Campari
  • 1.5 oz Mezcal (I recommend a quality 100% agave mezcal)

  • 1.5 oz Wild Foraged Staghorn Campari

  • 1.5 oz Sweet Vermouth (Rosso)

  • Ice cubes

  • Orange peel or twist, for garnish


  • Wild Foraged Staghorn Sumac Campari
  • Gently pull berries of the staghorn sumac off of the stems of the drupe. Collect in a bowl and clean by removing any debris, dirt or insects.
  • In a large glass container, add sumac berries and smash them to begin to release flavors from the berries. Add the tequila to the berries and continue to smash and agitate until all of the berries have been roughly macerated.
  • Allow mixture to sit in refrigerator for 12 days, stirring every 2-3 days.
  • On day 12, strain your tequila-berry mash using cheese cloth into a clean pot.
  • Heat mildly and add 0.5 cup sugar while stirring until dissolved. Continue until all sugar has been added. Immediately remove from flame and avoid boiling.
  • Let cool and bottle.
  • Once cool, add 4 to 5 drops of red food coloring to bottled Sumac Campari. Agitate mildly in bottle and adjust additional drops to suit depth of your desired red color. Campari was traditionally colored using an insect called a cochineal, but now also uses an artificial red dye that is added after the extraction process.
  • Optional: add a few of the berries back into the bottle for aesthetics and let age in the refrigerator for 1-2 days to meld.
  • Foraged Staghorn Sumac Campari & Mezcal Negroni
  • In a mixing glass, combine the mezcal, staghorn sumac Campari and sweet vermouth.
  • Add a few ice cubes to the glass and stir until well chilled.
  • Strain the mixture into a rocks glass filled with ice or neat.
  • Garnish with a twist of orange peel, expressing its oils over the drink to release its fragrant essence.
  • Raise your glass, cheers a friend and enjoy!

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Brandon Dale

Brandon grew up in South Louisiana camping, kayaking, hunting and fishing, and he is an avid fly-fisherman and hunter. Now living in NYC for graduate and medical school, he finds solace in the woods and waters of the Upstate NY, Hudson Valley, Long Island and Vermont.

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