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.
Earlier I heard a sound I hadn't heard in months, a bird singing. My ears perked up. It was a pleasant song and it was a reminder that spring is near.
I'm looking forward to spring. Spring is the only season that I haven't experienced in Maine. Before moving here in October, I'd only visited in the summer, fall and winter. And while I have been warned that spring is mud season, which is then followed by black fly season, I'm looking forward to seeing the rebirth of nature in my new home state.
As a way to celebrate the coming of spring, I created this smokey and floral cocktail that features Del Maguey Vida mezcal and Tempus Fugit's Liqueur de Violettes. Now call me odd, but there's something alluring about the way the smokiness of the mezcal works with the delicate violet perfume of the Liqueur de Violettes. Crème de Violette is an essential component of an Aviation (pictured below), which is a pre-Prohibition era cocktail that features London dry gin, Maraschino cherry liqueur, Crème de Violette and lemon.
And while I enjoy an Aviation, I wanted something with a bit more edge to it, but still slightly delicate to celebrate the coming of spring. Hence my coming up with a cocktail that features mezcal to provide that campfire smoke backbone that I love. I used a standard whiskey sour recipe as my starting point. I replaced bourbon with mezcal, swapped lime for lemon, subbed agave syrup for simple syrup, added a touch of the Liqueur de Violettes and completed it with a dash of lavender bitters. Recipe below.
- 1.5 oz mezcal (I recommend Del Maguey Vida)
- .75 oz Tempus Fugit's Liqueur de Violettes (Or any other Creme de Violette)
- .75 oz fresh lime juice
- .25 oz agave syrup
- 1 egg white
- 1 dash of lavender bitters (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker without ice and dry shake for 30 seconds to help whip up the egg white. After 30 seconds, add ice and shake until properly cold and diluted. Double strain into an old fashioned glass with fresh ice. Enjoy.
I pulled out my iSi N20 whipper tonight, threw a bunch of stuff in it like bourbon, cinnamon, star anise, orange zest and Thai Bird chili, and did a rapid infusion. I usually don't do the whole infusion thing but I might need to do it more often. I won't get into the chemistry of rapid infusion because I'm not a chemist. The great thing about rapidly infusing something is that you don't need to plan too far in advance.
Want a rum infused with basil and lemon, but don't want to wait a couple of days for it to infuse the old fashioned way? Do it with an iSi N20 whipper. In less than five minutes you can have a deliciously infused liquor for a new cocktail.
I threw this little cocktail together with my infused bourbon. I'm calling The Percolator.
- 1.5 oz Cinnamon, star anise, orange zest and Thai Bird chili infused Buffalo Trace bourbon*
- 1 oz Averna amaro
- .5 oz Pierre Ferrand dry curaçao
- .25 oz gum syrup (or simple syrup)
Combine everything in a cocktail mixing glass. Add ice. Stir until chilled and properly diluted. Strain into a chilled cocktail coupe. Express a lemon peel over the cocktail and discard the peel. No garnish.
*To make the Cinnamon, star anise, orange zest and Thai Bird chili infused Buffalo Trace bourbon combine 4 oz of Buffalo Trace bourbon, two slightly crushed sticks of cinnamon, six whole star anise stars, the zest of half an orange peel and one dried Thai Bird chili into an iSi N20 whipper. Swirl everything around, then charge with one N20 cartridge for one minute and just let it hang out. Charge with another cartridge and then swirl for one minute. Very quickly discharge the whipper being careful to not lose any of the liquid.
Let everything relax for a few minutes and then strain using a fine mesh strainer into a measuring cup. There will be some sediment, so strain again using a coffee filter if you want to remove the sediment.
It's no secret that I'm kind of a margarita snob. How so many bars and restaurants can screw up something so simple is beyond me. Shake 2 ounces of blanco tequila, .75 ounces of fresh lime, .75 ounces of Cointreau (or triple sec) and .25 oz of agave syrup (or simple syrup) with ice. Strain into a double rocks glass over fresh ice. That's it. Nothing fancy or complex. And that's why you should demand a better margarita.
As a way to celebrate National Margarita Day (February 22), I decided to come up with my own version of a tiki-esque margarita, the Mez-tiki-rita. It's loosely a margarita, but every bit as awesome.
I wanted something smokey, with a touch of heat and a bit of sweet, so I used a slightly smokey mezcal instead of tequila and replaced Contreau with Ancho Reyes chili liqueur. Pineapple pairs well with mezcal and passionfruit is a classic tiki flavor. I rounded it all out with a touch of lime and cream of coconut. The cream of coconut gives it a hint of creaminess, but it's not an overpowering coconut flavor. A dash of tiki bitters ties everything together. Recipe below.
- 1.5 oz mezcal (I recommend Del Maguey Vida mezcal. It's not overly smokey, it was made for mixing cocktails, as well as sipping neat and it's not overly pricey)
- .5 oz Ancho Reyes chili liqueur
- .75 oz pineapple juice
- .25 oz fresh lime juice
- .5 oz passionfruit syrup
- .5 oz cream of coconut
- A dash of Bittermens ‘Elemakule tiki bitters
Combine everything in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until cold. Strain into a double rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with a lime wedge. Or feel free to get fancy with your garnish as this is kind of a tiki-esque margarita.