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The Impassioned Old-Fashioned made with Liber & Co. Passion Fruit Syrup

The Impassioned Old-Fashioned made with Liber & Co. Passion Fruit Syrup

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.

Impassioned Old-Fashioned

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!

A Trio of Old-Fashioneds and the bitters that make them work!

A Trio of Old-Fashioneds and the bitters that make them work!

No discussion of bitters could possibly be considered complete without Angostura, the granddaddy of them all. These bitters were created in 1824 by a medic in the Prussian army named Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert, who later became the Surgeon General under Simón Bolívar, the military leader who helped to liberate Latin America from Spanish rule. While stationed in a little town in Angostura, Siegert worked on developing a health-boosting tonic for the troops made from local plants and herbs. Years later, after Siegert perfected his recipe, he and his sons moved their operation to Trinidad and the House of Angostura was born. To this day, they continue to supply bitters to the cocktail world based on the tonic that Siegert created back in 1824. The recipe is shrouded in mystery and secrecy (surprise, surprise) with only a handful of people knowing the ingredients. The bitterness in Angostura bitters is thought to come from the gentian root, and their flavor profile to include elements of clove and cinnamon, which are fairly evident when you do a taste test. When Angostura bitters are added to a cocktail like an old-fashioned or a Manhatten, they draw out those same types of flavors in the bourbon and rye, adding an additional dimension to the drink. If you are someone who cooks, you can think of it working in the same way as layering flavors works to add depth to whatever dish you are making.

In an effort to gain a better understanding of the 3 essential bitters than we’ve discussed so far, I decided to make a trio of Old-Fashioneds with each one containing different spirits and the bitters that I thought would work best with them. The Classic Old-Fashioned was easy; I used Angostura bitters and I prepared it in the traditional way by dissolving a demerara sugar cube in 2 dashes of the bitters and a splash of water. I used Buffalo Trace as my bourbon. I tasted the drink without the bitters and I felt like I was basically drinking just bourbon, water, and sugar – all ingredients in place, but broken apart. The minute I added the bitters they brought out deeper flavors in the bourbon, bound it together with the sugar, and there was my Old-Fashioned, pictured to the far right below.

For my second variation I chose to go with Redemption Rye and Nux Alpina, which is a walnut liqueur that has an absolutely beautiful flavor. The spice of the rye and the sweet warmth of the Nux Alpina needed a bridge between them and I decided to try Scrappy’s Orleans bitters, which is their version of Peychaud’s. My reasoning here was based on the idea that the anise flavor in the bitters would work well with the walnut flavor of the Nux Alpina, and the spice flavors would complement the rye. This was the first time that I used a Peychaud’s type of bitters in this way and I was happy with the result. This drink ended up being my favorite of the three. It’s pictured to the far left below.

My third and final Old-Fashioned was made with Rujero Singani, a Bolivian spirit made from Muscat of Alexandria grapes grown at high elevations and reminiscent of a slightly floral fine tequila, Pierre Ferrand Dry Orange Curaçao, which is a triple sec like Cointreau, and Fee Brothers orange bitters. In this case I chose the bitters to accentuate both the orange flavor of the Pierre Ferrand and the floral notes of the Rujero, thus tying the 2 spirits together. The end result was a more delicate style of Old-Fashioned that felt as equally balanced as the 2 that were made with more traditional darker spirits. It’s pictured in the middle below.

Classic Old-Fashioned

2 oz Buffalo Trace bourbon
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
1 demerara sugar cube
1 splash of water
1 orange twist for garnishing

Place the sugar cube in the bottom of an Old-Fashioned glass. Add the two dashes of bitters and a splash of water. Muddle together until the sugar cube is almost completely dissolved. Swirl the glass a bit. Add the bourbon and 1 large cube of ice. Stir the drink gently, just enough to get it chilled. Garnish with the orange twist.

Rye Walnut Old-Fashioned

2 oz Redemption Rye
½ oz Nux Alpina Walnut Liqueur
½ oz simple syrup
2 dashes Scrappy’s Orleans bitters
Orange twist for garnishing

Place all the ingredients into a mixing glass and fill ⅔ full with ice. Stir using a long-handled bar spoon for 30 seconds until cold. Strain into an Old-Fashioned glass over 1 large cube. Garnish with the orange twist.

Rujero Singani Old-Fashioned

2 oz Rujero Singani
½ oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Orange Curaçao
½ oz simple syrup
2 dashes Fee Brothers orange bitters
Orange twist for garnishing

Place all the ingredients into a mixing glass and fill ⅔ full with ice. Stir using a long-handled bar spoon for 30 seconds or until cold. Strain into an Old-Fashioned glass over 1 large cube. Garnish with the orange twist.