The good people from Diplomatico Rum recently invited me to participate in a cocktail photo/recipe contest, the parameters of which were fairly simple: use peak-season ingredients unique to my city to create an original cocktail using Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva aged rum.
I quickly accepted the challenge, thinking of all the wonderful winter fruits I could use in a cocktail. Then, of course, I took a closer look at the rules.
Peak-season ingredients unique to my city.
This is Boston. In March. The only thing enjoying its peak is dirty snow.
After a little digging, I discovered that according to the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture, only five types of produce are seasonal to Massachusetts from January through May – apples, shiitake mushrooms, potatoes, sprouts, and mung beans.
Not a lot to work with.
If I were I a savvy mixologist, maybe I’d whip up something funky like a potato shrub or mushroom bitters (not that either sounds particularly appealing). Sprouts, I figured, would have little use beyond serving as bizarre garnish. As for the mung bean, I have no idea what it is and didn’t bother looking it up; nothing that rhymes with “dung” would be featuring in the drink.
That left apples, which are more a staple of autumn than a harbinger of spring. But we play the hand we’re dealt.
With my seasonal ingredient chosen, I cobbled together an apple syrup, using bits and pieces of recipes I found on the web.
This rich, amber-hued syrup is made with Granny Smith apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, and cloves (recipe below), giving it the flavor profile of apple pie. The tartness of apples allow for the syrup to be used in fairly generous amounts without causing the drink to become overly sweet.
Trial and Error…and Error…and Error
I then spent the next two weeks dumping drink after drink down the drain while I searched for the right combination of flavors. Not that I was simply throwing random ingredients into a shaker and hoping for the best; I was trying to complement and accentuate the flavors in the rum and the syrup – molasses, caramel, apple, brown sugar, and baking spices.
At some point I got it in my head that the missing ingredient was ginger, but I didn’t have a ginger liqueur in my home bar. Since I was feeling industrious (read: cheap), I whipped up my own by making a syrup with fresh ginger, vanilla, and orange zest, and blending it with brandy.
It was positively delicious, and it paired well with the rum and the apple.
So after much deliberating, overthinking, tasting, and dumping, I’m excited to share the cocktail, which I’m calling Eve’s Downfall.
Here’s the recipe I settled on:
- 2 ounces Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva rum
- 1 ounce fresh lime juice
- ¾ ounce homemade apple syrup
- ½ ounce ginger liqueur
- 1 barspoon Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
- Miracle Mile Bay Rum bitters
- Egg white
Dry shake all ingredients, thoroughly. Add ice and shake again. Strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass. Garnish with an apple fan and freshly ground nutmeg.
While it has more ingredients than I’d like, the flavors interact the way I intended. Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva has rich notes of caramel, vanilla, and baking spices. My syrup, made with apple, brown sugar, cinnamon, and clove, complements those flavors.
The ginger liqueur contributes a little brightness. I’m sure you can use any commercial ginger liqueur if you don’t want to make your own; I followed this recipe from Serious Eats.
The Maraschino liqueur, which I deployed in a small amount, brings a hint of sour fruitiness. The egg white, of course, adds a soft, creamy texture, and supports the nutmeg, which provides an aromatic sensation with every sip.
The one wild card here, if you’re planning to replicate this, is the Miracle Mile Bay Rum bitters. Inspired by Bay Rum aftershave, they’re made with West Indies bay leaves (similar to allspice) and are heavy on pimento dram-type spices.
I added them on a whim, and they made a real difference – kind of my “eureka” moment. But they were released as part of a limited-edition three-pack a couple of years ago, so finding them might be difficult.
Angostura bitters are a reliable substitute, but I’d suggest trying black walnut bitters. They’ll result in a different flavor profile, but they add to the cocktail’s nuttiness. I’d been using them all along until I substituted the Bay Rum bitters at the last minute.
Apple Syrup Recipe
- 1 cup packed Granny Smith apple peels
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 whole cloves
Bring all ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring until the sugar absorbs. Simmer for 5 minutes or until the mixture reaches your desired thickness. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Pour the syrup through a wire-mesh strainer into an airtight glass bottle or jar. Dispose of the peels and spices.
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