Drizzle: a springtime Old Fashioned

May 8, 2011

I have decided to embark on a new task – I recently cataloged the homemade portion of my liquor cabinet and I will be trying to make at least one cocktail with every item in there  in an effort to find what is good, what is worth working on, and what will never happen again.  This libation is the first of that series.  Charged with making drinks for the evening, my fellow wanted an old fashioned — an order I’m always happy to comply with — and then he picked a Rainier cherry infusion for me to play with.

I was in an old fashioned mood myself, so I went for a simple riff on it:

1.5 oz Jameson
0.75 oz Rainier cherry infused brandy †
1 tsp 1:1 simple
1 d lavender bitters ††
Garnish with lemon twist

The biggest issue working with the cherry infusion is that Rainier cherries are naturally a very mild and subtle flavor — and more so in a maceration.  I wanted the cherry to come through as an accent, but because the infusion mostly picked up the sweetness, I couldn’t use it as a base.  That dusty green bottle of Jameson tucked away in a corner came through for me here, adding a mild oakiness and some grain to balance out the overwhelming fruit, without beating it into submission.  However, standard Jameson is a whisky that can end up on the boring side if you neglect it, so I had to be sure to pick a lively bitters.  That’s when I remembered my early batch of lavender bitters — floral and astringent with just a hint of wood and citrus.  Just one tiny dash, as it can be pretty overwhelming, and a twist of lemon to tie things together, and voila! a taste of all the hope of spring and growing things, with all the comfort and warmth of a wintery whisky-based drink.

The end result:  a nose of lemon and lavender, which turns to brandy, whisky, and cherry as you sip and then goes back to the lavender and lemon with just a touch of oak on the swallow.  Light and crisp, but still spiritous and simple at heart.

Rainier Cherry Infused Brandy
4.75 oz (weight) of Rainier cherries, unpitted
7 oz brandy (I used Paul Masson VSOP — good depth and spice for an affordable price)
Macerate at room temperature about 2 and a half weeks, then strain with a coffee filter.  The yield is pretty small — 4-5 ounces — but the recipe can obviously be increased as desired.  The cherries may have further use too, if you like booze-drenched fruit.

Lavender Bitters
I didn’t come up with this one.  Go check out the recipe at Blotto, which I found to be pretty painless and well worth the effort.  I do recommend reducing the recipe though – I think I got mine down to 1/4 or  1/8 to save on cabinet space.  The resulting 1-1.5 oz is plenty for my limited use of it.  Lyle’s Golden Syrup may be difficult to find as well, though it’s worth owning as a cocktail sweetener if you do run across it.  If not, substituting agave nectar or a mellow honey would work just fine.

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