Recently, a couple of friends came up with an idea for a cocktail party: Pick a spirit—whiskey in this case—and have attendees buy a nice bottle of that spirit (in the $40 range) and use it to come up with a "signature" cocktail. Then, at the end of the night, there'd be a white-elephant-style exchange of the bottles and their remaining contents.
Folks put a lot of thought and effort into their cocktails—one couple, for instance, made smoked ice (more on that below). I wanted to do something with pumpkin and had in mind a nice, round, sweet-and-spicy pumpkin / bourbon cocktail. Caveat: I write about cocktails, I don't make 'em. I figured out a pumpkin simple syrup (white and brown sugars, water, pumpkin purée and spices—cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and star anise—to taste) and added a dash of Bitter Truth celery bitters to counter the sweetness just a bit.
The drink was still missing something, though, and since my trial run was two hours before the party, I didn't have time to experiment. A few days later, I spotted the Easy, Pilgrim on Saltbox's winter cocktail menu, made with Templeton Rye, a spiced-pumpkin reduction and Angostura bitters. Ah-ha! Rye's spiciness makes it a better choice than the sweeter bourbon. And a spiced pumpkin reduction! Jen Queen was kind enough to share her recipe (see below).
Even if my cocktail wasn't a complete success, here are a couple from the party that were:
San Francisco Fog by Amy and Frank Green
- 2 ounces Cyrus Noble bourbon
- 3 ounces coconut milk
- 2 ounces apple cider
- 1/2 ounce lemon-honey simple syrup
- Shake and strain over ice, garnish with
Smoke Up Johnny by Lesley Emery and Mike Scheer
Adapted from the Smoke Signals cocktail from Laurelhurst Market in Portland
- 3 parts Wild Turkey Spiced bourbon
- 1 part Hartley & Gibsonís Amontillado sherry
- 1/2 part fresh lemon juice
- 1 part pecan simple syrup (simple syrup simmered with toasted pecans then strained)
- Stir and serve over smoked ice (made by melting ice in a smoker then refreezing it).
- Garnish with a flamed orange twist.
Spiced pumpkin reduction
3 cups of diced roasted pumpkin.
2 cups of sugar
2 cups of apple juice (preferably non
1 cup of water
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Bring all ingredients to a boil in a saucepan, lower heat and simmer until reduced by half. Let cool, strain and store.