Stagg Jr. is a bruiser of a bourbon, and I mean that in a good way. It’s uncut and unfiltered. It’s chewy, rich and viscous with a spicy rye backbone and a touch of sweet chocolate. It packs a high proof punch and often times I refer to it as rocket fuel. It’s an absolutely killer bourbon but it can be dangerous. How killer? I’ve had the same bottle, which was the first release of Stagg Jr., for a couple of years now and it clocks in at 134 proof. This isn’t a bourbon meant to be taken as a shot. You could but you won’t be standing for very long. It’s an end of the night bourbon, meant to be sipped and savored slowly.
I don’t often use Stagg Jr. in cocktails as it can overwhelm everything it comes in contact with. That’s not to say you can’t, or shouldn’t, use it in a cocktail. Case in point, the Pyroblast Old Fashioned.
Pyroblast? It’s a simple syrup (recipe below) with powerful blast of cinnamon, cloves, star anise, allspice berries, black peppercorns and red chili flakes. When I make an Old Fashioned I tend use gum (gomme) syrup. I’ve written about gum syrup before. It’s a sugar syrup with gum arabic. The gum arabic creates a velvety mouthfeel that binds flavors together in a way that a simple syrup can’t. Gum syrup is perfect for a lower proof bourbon, like Buffalo Trace. I buy gum syrup from Liber & Co and highly recommend it. However, I wanted something to push Stagg Jr. even further, that’s why I went with pyroblast syrup.
The Pyroblast Old Fashioned is meant to be savored.
Pyroblast Old Fashioned
2 oz. Stagg Jr. bourbon (or other barrel proof bourbon such as Elijah Craig barrel proof or Booker’s bourbon)
.25 oz pyroblast syrup*
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
5 drops of Bittercube cherry bark bitters
Combine the bourbon, pyroblast syrup and bitters in a mixing glass. Add fresh ice. Stir for 30 seconds. Taste. This is a hot cocktail, and by hot I don’t mean warm. If you want to open the flavors up a bit more, stir again to reach the dilution that you prefer. But don’t stir too long. Strain into a double rocks glass over a giant piece of ice. Express and orange peel over the glass to release the oils. Drop peel in. Sip and enjoy.
*Pyroblast syrup (adapted from Lost Recipes of Prohibition by Matthew Rowley)
1 cup water
2 cups rich demerara sugar
8 cinnamon sticks broken
8 whole cloves
4 star anise
6 allspice berries
6 black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan and add the spices. Allow to boil for three minutes. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Lower the heat and allow the syrup to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Turn off the heat and allow the syrup to cool to room temperature. Strain out the spices before using and funnel into a clean glass bottle for storage. Refrigerate for up to a month.