Persimmon Boulevardier

You may not have tried the classic Boulevardier cocktail, but I'm betting you've been exposed to its cousin of sorts, the Negroni. Both are very booze-forward (aka entirely booze) with a hint of citrus, a lot of depth, and an overall bitter finish. The difference between the two is the base spirit - the Boulevardier features bourbon or rye whiskey while the Negroni is built on a foundation of gin.

I had never tried making the Boulevardier but thought that the richer flavor of whiskey could better balance the bitterness of the aperitif component and therefore wanted to explore further. Though the traditional recipe calls for Campari, I prefer using ingredients with all-natural color and flavors and thus chose to incorporate a new brand local to Chicago - Apologue Liqueurs.

With one of the founders of the company coming from an accomplished industry background at The Violet Hour and Letherbee Distillers, I figured Apologue would offer a quality product. I certainly wasn't disappointed. Robby and Jordan were able to create an offering of three unique and dynamic natural liqueurs crafted from predominantly local ingredients. I tend to always favor well-established French brands for liqueurs, but Apologue has really shaken things up by bringing a fresh perspective to the market, and I'm thrilled to see their products being incorporated at bars throughout Chicago.

For this drink, I used their take on Campari - Persimmon Bittersweet Liqueur. The liqueur is pleasantly sweet, with a burst of warm spice and a finish of smooth fruity bitterness. I don't typically enjoy simply sipping an aperitif but this liqueur is truly an exception.

While I wanted to combine the persimmon liqueur with whiskey, I didn't want all of the more subtle notes in the liqueur to be overshadowed. I therefore chose to use a white rye from KOVAL, a sweeter and almost vegetal counterpart to the oak-aged variety. As prescribed, I finished the drink with a touch of sweet red vermouth but decided to use slightly less than the traditional Boulevardier recipe calls for. Though I enjoy vermouth, I wanted it to bring the other two ingredients together rather than compete with either of them. The resulting cocktail is strong yet bright, palatably bitter, and perfect for warding off the winter chill

The Persimmon Boulevardier

  • 1.5 oz white rye whiskey
  • 1 oz Apologue Persimmon Liqueur
  • 0.75 sweet red vermouth (I used Noilly Prat)

Stir all ingredients with ice until chilled, then strain into a rocks glass over a large ice cube. Garnish with a dehydrated persimmon slice or an orange twist and enjoy while wrapped in a blanket cocoon

Thanks to Belen Aquino for the stunning cocktail photography and to Gather Vintage Tablescapes for the beautiful vintage glasses.

Sunshine State of Mind

One of the reasons that I so love mixology is that it's an ever-changing science experiment. New inspiration is constantly popping up in terms of ingredients, tools and methods. While I try to keep this blog beginner-friendly, I also want to encourage you to have some of your own science experiment fun alongside me (and to hopefully learn from where I've struggled).

This cocktail features several techniques I've been curious to try out - roasting and dehydrating. The bad news is that both require some degree of planning ahead. But trust me, it's so worth it if you want to take your flavor profile and garnish game to the next level. Plus, no complex tools are necessary - a simple oven does the trick.

Let's start with roasting.

Roasting your citrus (oranges, in this case) with some sprinkled sugar brings out the juicy sweetness and achieves a nice, slightly caramelized flavor. After a bit of research, I chose to follow the instructions that I found here and was very satisfied with the end results:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
  2. Slice oranges in half and top with a pinch of brown sugar
  3. Bake on a parchment-paper lined sheet for 30 minutes
  4. Finish the process by broiling for 5 minutes (the goal is to get the oranges slightly browned but make sure to check on them frequently so they don't burn)

If the summer heat has you avoiding the oven at all costs, try grilling the oranges instead. You'll get a more smoky flavor using the grill and will need to adjust cooking time accordingly. 

Dehydrating is a completely optional bonus step if you're feeling adventurous.

If you've never before seen dehydrated citrus garnish at a cocktail bar, think of a typical citrus wheel with a more papery, translucent texture and shrunken size. The cool thing about this type of garnish is you can make it in bulk and have it on hand for a long time (drying something out is a basic means of preservation). If you don't have the time to devote to this extra step, a thin slice of fresh orange will also make a beautiful martini topper.

Citrus dehydration steps are as follows:

  1. Slice citrus into 1/4" thick slices
  2. Place citrus slices onto a cooling rack on top of a baking sheet
  3. Bake at 170 degrees for 6 hours (turning rack every 2 hours)

I didn't have the luxury of time so I baked my orange slices at 200 degrees for 4 hours. While they weren't completely dried out, they were most of the way there and achieved the look I was going for. 

To craft the Sunshine State of Mind martini, I juiced the roasted oranges, and added vermouth, gin, orange bitters and homemade honey syrup. The result was delightfully sweet with a refreshing orange freshness and a nice depth given by the gin. 

Sunshine State of Mind

  • 2 oz gin
  • 1/2 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 roasted orange
  • 1/2 oz honey syrup*
  • Dash of orange bitters

Fill shaker with a handful of ice, then add juice from the roasted orange. Top with the remaining ingredients and shake vigorously until shaker is frosted (this is a boozy one so the colder, the better). Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a dehydrated orange wheel or a thin orange slice. Enjoy while soaking up the sun on your next beach getaway.

*To make honey syrup, heat 1/2 cup honey and 1 cup water over medium heat until honey dissolves. Make sure to stir frequently and turn down the heat if the mixture starts to boil. Syrup can be made in advance and stored in the fridge for a few weeks.

Photography and glassware by Belen Aquino.