A Tunisian fig brandy traditionally consumed before or after meals, Boukha Bokobsa can be a versatile component in cocktails.
For years, I was convinced I didn’t like figs.
Because when I was a kid, I hated Fig Newtons. The first time I tried one, I thought I was being pranked. Cookies were supposed to be fun, sweet, and delicious – three words I would never use to describe Fig Newtons. They were an insult to cookies everywhere.
Or so I thought.
It wasn’t until adulthood that I realized I had it backward. Fig Newtons weren’t an insult to cookies; they were an insult to figs. Because figs, as I eventually discovered, are actually really good. I don’t know what unholy alchemy turned this tasty fruit into a foul brown paste masquerading as a cookie filling, but it delayed my enjoyment of figs by many years.
Today I’m a big fig fan, and last month I was excited to get my hands on a bottle of Boukha Bokobsa, a fig eau de vie.
The National Drink of Tunisia
Boukha Bokobsa is a clear, unaged brandy made from Mediterranean figs. “Boukha” is the category of spirit, and “Bokobsa” is the brand, named for the family that’s been distilling it since 1880. The spirit originated in Tunisia, but today Boukha Bokobsa is produced in France.
On the Nose: Rich, sweet, and complex, like an indulgent dessert. The aroma of figs is unmistakable.
On the Palate: Smooth up front. Alongside the predominant fig flavor are notes of raisin and cinnamon. I would expect a fig brandy to be very sweet, but the sweetness is earthy and restrained. There’s a little heat in the finish.
While the eau de vie can be consumed at room temperature or chilled, the Boukha Bokobsa folks encourage freezing the bottle and drinking it ice-cold. The temperature does make a difference; the chilled version is crisp and bracing, smoothing out some of those hot notes and making the fig flavor more consistent throughout.
Funny thing about boukha cocktails – there aren’t many. Google it if you don’t believe me. You’ll see plenty of fig cocktails, but they usually involve fig jam, muddled figs, or fig-infused vodka or whiskey. But boukha is traditionally consumed neat, and using it as a cocktail ingredient seems to be a relatively new concept.
The dearth of cocktail examples made for an interesting challenge in terms of experimenting with flavor combinations. Here’s what I came up with.
The Ruins of Carthage combines Boukha Bokobsa with Bully Boy amaro, which I chose partly because of its subtle fig notes. Brown sugar syrup adds a little thickness, and chocolate bitters pair well with the fig.
The Ruins of Carthage
2 oz Boukha Bokobsa
1 oz Bully Boy amaro
½ oz brown sugar syrup
2 dashes Fee Brothers chocolate bitters
Maraschino cherry garnish
Stir all ingredients with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail or coupe glass. Garnish with the cherry.
I haven’t come up with a name for this next drink, but it’s lighter and less boozy. Made with Boukha Bokobsa, lemon, and a homemade rosemary syrup, it’s tart and softly herbal. Angostura bitters add some aromatic notes and a bit of color.
2 oz Boukha Bokobsa
1 oz fresh lemon juice
½ ounce rosemary syrup
2 generous dashes Angostura bitters
Rosemary sprig garnish
Shake all ingredients with ice. Double-strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary.
Boukha Bokobsa is smooth, rich, and bursting with fig flavor. And while it’s traditionally consumed neat, before or after a meal (or both), on its own I found it to be a bit too intense for my taste. But it’s delightful in drinks, and since that’s still a novel concept, exploring its potential in cocktails can lead to some exciting discoveries.
Note: I received a complimentary bottle of Boukha Bokobsa with the understanding that I would use it in a product review. No one from or associated with the Boukha Bokobsa brand influenced this content.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Copyright © Boston BarHopper. All Rights Reserved.