Marionberry Love: Why Oregonians Love Marionberries

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The Pacific Northwest is known for a lot of things: Picture-perfect waterfalls, endless hiking trails, salmon, rain (of course), and a berry the rest of the world has never heard of. The Marionberry. Hailing from quaint mid-valley Marion County, this juicy cultivar is the result of some creative gene-splicing from scientists at Oregon State University; home of the Maraschino Cherry! The Marionberry family tree is a who’s who in berries. Generations of cross-breeding Logan, Dew, Young, Rasp and Blackberries culminated in the finale of marrying genes of Olallie and Chehalem blackberry crops. It’s a sordid history fueled by lust and madness all for the sake of perfected the purple produce.


The marionberry does not abide to tact. It’s a tart punch to the palate later succumbing to sweeter flesh and jammy notes. Once you get through the initial bombardment to your senses, the berry gives in to modest tannin, relatable nuances such as raspberry and blueberry with an zesty citrus essence. The Marionberry is as much of a melting pot of flavors as it is a culmination in a long line of berry lineage.

Birth of an Oregon Icon

“The marionberry was developed by U.S. Department of Agricultural researcher George F. Waldo at Oregon State University in Corvallis in the nineteen forties. It is a cross of the flavorful Olallie berry and the high-producing Chehalem berry, both of which are also caneberry hybrids. The Olallie berry is a cross between the youngberry and the loganberry, each of which is also a caneberry hybrid. The youngberry is a cross between the native pacific blackberry and dewberry, while the loganberry is a cross between the native blackberry and the raspberry.”

“On the other side of the marionberry family tree, the Chehalem berry is a cross between the noxious European Himalayan blackberry and the Santiam blackberry. The Santiam is a cross between a native pacific blackberry and the loganberry. Got all that? And yes, loganberry is marionberry’s grandpa on one side of the family and great-grandpa on the other.”

~ Bipartisan Cafe


The juicy, delicious berry has become a seasonal standard in our home state popping up in everything from pies and jams to BBQ marinades, scratch-it stickers and even beer. Lately, the marionberry has really began to shine in craft cocktails. Local distilleries, like Eastside Distilling, have pushed the whimsical berry into the spotlight with their infused Marionberry Vodka and Marionberry Whiskey.

Eastside Distilling’s Marionberry Vodka was a feat in exacting practices redefining expectations. To combine a tart, citric berry with neutral octane ethanol with the expectation that it will be a summer delight both smooth and sweet and swell is easier spoken than done. Finding a balance here without creating a liqueur (masking ‘off’ and undesirable flavors with sugar) took time, research and patience. However, we are experienced, talented individuals who executed the development heroically. We seriously surprised ourselves in the process. The final infused vodka is delicious and complex without additionally added colors, flavors, extracts or preservatives. The spirit is unlike any flavored vodka on the market with a wide range of possibilities.

"Portland Marionberry Vodka is a genuine venture into flavoring spirits.  The jammy, berry notes are lively and rich, unencumbered by added sugar and complemented by the water-like profile of our potato vodka.  Compared to other berry vodkas on the market I think we achieved the unbelievable and crafted a complex vodka out of a simple concept.”

~ Mel Heim, Master Distiller/Blender at Eastside Distilling

Not to be outdone by the vodka, Eastside Distilling has fused the humble marionberry with their award-winning whiskey to create a brand new dimension of the flavored whiskey world: Oregon Marionberry Whiskey. Prominent notes include wood spice, gooey pie filling, a sweep of baked dough and unctuous dessert wine.

"Oregon Marionberry Whiskey is rich in color like homemade strawberry jam. It has a bright, potent aroma of sweet mango, raspberry and blackberry that sweetens as the vapors disperse. Intense fresh marionberries hit the palate and quickly transform to spice and citrus; ultimately evolving into warm brandy and cherry essence. The finish lingers awhile with subtle young whiskey heat and baked tart dryness."

~ Mel Heim, Master Distiller/Blender at Eastside Distilling

Cocktail Recipe

NW Berry Sour

1.5 oz Marionberry Whiskey
1.5 oz Apple Juice/Cider
.5 oz Cranberry Juice
.5 oz Lemon Juice


Fill glass with ice and combine all the ingredients and garnish with lemon wheel.

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