When crafting any cocktail, the thing that we’re striving for most is a sense of balance. Whether or not you considered yourself a professional or an amateur, a seasoned veteran or a pro, you’ll be able to taste when something is off. Drinks have different components to them, each of which is vital to creating the finished product. When there is too much or too little of any one of these elements, the drink will taste wrong, and even if you can’t put words to exactly why, your taste buds will definitely register it. If you look at the formula for creating a basic sour type of cocktail you’ll see that most have 2 ounces of a base spirit, along with 3/4 oz of sweetness, and 3/4 oz of sourness. In the case of something like a Twisted Gimlet, for example, I use 2 oz of vodka, 1/2 oz of St. Germain, 1/4 oz simple syrup, and 3/4 oz of lime juice. If I follow this formula most drinks will stay in balance. Often I’ll add bitters in too if the flavors in the drink are not coming together quite the way I want them to. An Old-Fashioned recipe is slightly different, in that there is not a strong sour component to the drink. It should contain a base spirit, sometimes a secondary spirit, sweetness, and bitters. To create a riff on the classic Old-Fashioned, you just need to change up the ingredients while keeping the ratios somewhat the same.
Sugar makes itself known in cocktails in many different forms. There is some sugar in the base spirit, although it’s often hard to actually taste. Secondary spirits are another matter. Something like St. Germain in the Twisted Gimlet above is going to contribute a decent amount of sugar to the cocktail and that’s why it factors into the formula. We often add sugar to a cocktail in the form of a syrup, which can be made with many different sweeteners, as well as having fruit, herbs, and spices infused in. These syrups are not difficult to make at home, but sometimes we don’t have all the ingredients we need on hand, or we just welcome the convenience of being able to buy something rather than make it. The important thing is to do your research and make sure you’re getting a good product that’s truly made from the things it claims it’s made from, with no corn syrup, and no artificial flavor added in. Liber & Co. from Austin, Texas makes a line of amazing syrups that are sourced from excellent producers using methods that extract the flavors as gently as possible. They sent me 6 of their syrups and asked me to create a few cocktails with them.
The first of the syrups that I wanted to try was the Passion Fruit because it’s not a flavor that I get to use very often. My initial inclination was to go with something light like a white rum or tequila, a vodka, or a gin. I wanted to step outside that comfort zone and go darker in much the same way as I wanted to challenge myself in the cocktail that I created for Fabrizia Spirits, The Sanguine Impostor. I decided to go with a riff on an Old-Fashioned, something that I wouldn’t ordinarily associate with passion fruit syrup, since it’s usually thought of as a more tropical flavor. I chose an Appleton Estate aged rum for my base spirit because it has the deep hints of caramel and vanilla that could go in a tropical direction, and I paired that with Ancho Reyes, a chili liqueur that works extremely well with rum, adding both sweetness and spiciness. An Old-Fashioned calls for a certain amount of sugar, traditionally in the form of a demerera cube muddled right in the glass, but it is acceptable to use a simple syrup here too, and that’s where the passion fruit syrup fit into this recipe. The final component to figure out was which bitters to use and I opted for Black Cloud’s Saffron Mango, because I loved the combination of the mango and passion fruit together. If you’d like to give this cocktail a try, the rum and Ancho Reyes are readily available, but the Liber & Co. syrup and the Black Clouds bitters may need to be ordered online if you’re unable to find a distributor near you.
2 oz Appleton Estate 12-year-old rum
½ oz Ancho Reyes chili liqueur
¼ oz Liber & Co. passion fruit syrup
1 dash Black Cloud saffron mango bitters
Add all ingredients to a mixing glass. Fill ⅔ full with ice and stir 30 seconds or until well chilled. Strain into a chilled old-fashioned glass over 1 large cube. Express a lime peel over the cocktail and garnish with lime peel that’s been rolled into a rose and skewered onto a cocktail pick. Enjoy!