The third and final cocktail in my lineup for this Friday’s event at Gorshin’s Trading Post in Haddonfield had to be a whiskey drink. After all, I’d already covered my other bases with a somewhat sour cocktail that features a vinegar shrub, and a decidedly sweet drink that is like a liquid candy cane. It would be terribly remiss of me not to show my whiskey fans some love with a holiday cocktail made just for them!
I knew that I wanted a riff on an Old-fashioned that had a flavor profile that immediately made me think of Christmas. That could be summed up in one word for me: Chai! I tried several different variations of a Chai simple syrup (all using different sweeteners) before I landed on the one that wanted to use. Regular white sugar didn’t have quite enough depth for me, and honey and agave seemed too syrupy, so I decided on turbinado sugar, also known as Sugar in the Raw. I had my sweetener; now I just needed to come up with the bitters part of the equation. I normally use just aromatic bitters in an Old-fashioned, but I knew that there would have to be more in this drink so I chose to add a dash of orange and a dash of cardamom to complement and enhance the chai spice flavors. That gave me exactly what I was looking for. I stuck with the traditional orange peel garnish and also added star anise. It’s one of the Chai spices and it’s always visually appealing in cocktail. With all that being said, when I actually tasted the drink it wasn’t quite right. It needed more snap, more of something that would take the spice flavor to the next level but not overwhelm the bourbon. After some trial and error, Ancho Reyes chili liqueur was the answer. It added just the thing that was missing, and when I tasted it again I knew I had the cocktail exactly where I wanted it to be!
Holiday Spiced Old-fashioned
Combine all the ingredients except the garnishes in a mixing glass and fill 2/3 full with ice. Stir using a long-handled bar spoon until very cold (about 45 seconds). Strain using a julep strainer and pour into an old-fashioned glass, preferably over 1 large cube. Express the orange peel over the drink. Garnish and enjoy!
*To make the chai simple syrup steep 3 chai tea bags in 1/2 cup boiling water for 5 minutes. Add 1/3 cup turbinado sugar and stir until it dissolves. Let cool before using. The syrup will stay in the fridge for about a month.