More than likely, you've noticed the growing trend to eat seasonal produce. Summer brings a delicious array of berries. Fall offers apples, squash, and all sorts of unidentifiable root vegetables. What about winter and early spring? Though the Midwest is not incredibly plant friendly at this time of year, there is a wealth of amazing produce flourishing farther south. Let me make your winter a little brighter by introducing you to the glorious world of winter citrus (and teaching you how to harness it for cocktail purposes).
I took this opportunity to learn more about the many varieties of one citrus family: oranges. Over the next couple of posts, I will share recipes crafted with navel, blood, and cara cara oranges. Each of the three are surprisingly unique in both flavor and appearance and create beautiful, simple garnishes for finishing your cocktails. Navel oranges are particularly great to mix with as they're wonderfully cheap this time of the year. I know my favorite grocery store may be somewhat of an anomaly, but I just picked up a 3lb bag for 99 cents!
When thinking about how to highlight the vibrant sweetness of navel oranges, my mind drifted to one of my favorite dessert flavor pairings: chocolate and orange. If chocolate bars infused with orange flavor or chocolate covered candied orange slices could work so well, why not fresh squeezed orange juice and chocolate? Luckily, I had picked up a bitters sampler pack on a recent trip to Portland and so had access to some PDX cacao bitters to test my theory. Bitters are an excellent way to add a flavor component to your drink without watering it down or overdoing the sweetness. I chose to use a bit more than usual (5 drops vs my usual 3) because I really wanted the bold taste and aroma of chocolate.
The only question left to answer was perhaps the most important one of all - what liquor would do this flavor combination justice? I instantly thought of whiskey but had some uncertainty as to which variety would be best. Luckily, I went for a visit to Chicago Distilling Company and quickly got my answer. I had been there for a tour a few years back and enjoyed all of their spirits and cocktail room (if you're local and haven't been, and also if you like learning about science, you really should do the tour).
This time around, I got to taste their newest creations: beer-inspired specialty whiskeys and absinthe. The Stouted Single Malt Whiskey truly blew away in terms of both scent and taste. Let's be honest, I really can't say no to anything with a chocolate/coffee/nut flavor profile. Noah, the very knowledgeable and approachable head of Chicago Distilling's bar program, recommended I mix the Stouted Whiskey with another spirit due to its flavor strength. I tested a couple of options and settled on a 50/50 split with Trader Joe's Kentucky Bourbon (which is such a great value for making cocktails). Using the Stouted Whiskey in combination with another spirit is also a great way to make a small bottle go farther!
I felt that adding some sweetness would make the chocolate flavors of the whiskey and bitters pop, so I rounded the drink off with a bit of dark maple syrup. The resulting cocktail is fresh, unbelievably smooth and decadent without being overly sweet or rich - a treat for whiskey lovers and sceptics alike!
So Fresh and So Stout
- 0.75 oz Chicago Distilling Company Stouted Single Malt Whiskey
- 0.75 oz bourbon
- Juice of 1 navel orange
- 5 drops cacao bitters
- 1 tsp dark maple syrup
- Cacao powder, for garnish
Shake all ingredients other than cacao powder with ice until chilled. Wet rim of a stemmed glass and dip in cacao powder to coat (simple syrup works even better to adhere the powder to the glass, if you have it on hand). Pour chilled mixture into glass and enjoy while listening to some throwback tunes and building up your positive vibes.