Fun personal fact (which you may have also gathered from the general health-minded nature of this blog) – I’m not a typical dessert eater. People can be chowing down chocolate, doughnuts or ice cream sundaes right next to me while I feel no temptation. It’s a trait I’m hugely thankful for. One of my favorite treats to follow up dinner is actually a few walnuts. The rich buttery texture and nutty flavor is more than enough to leave me satisfied.
You may not share my dessert sentiments, but perhaps you’ll be hooked on this autumnal alcoholic ode to walnuts.
If you haven't yet tried any Fee Brothers Bitters, I highly recommend picking up a few. I've enjoyed all the flavors I've tried thus far but the black walnut is hands down my favorite. In case you're new to bitters, be sure to use them sparingly. Bitters tend to be extremely concentrated so more than a few drops can offset your cocktail's flavor profile. On the other hand, I love how bitters can add focused complexity without watering a drink down (as well as their cost effectiveness).
I chose to pair the black walnut bitters with spiced apple cider as the combination expresses everything I love about fall - apple picking in Southeastern Wisconsin, enjoying a fire in the fireplace and getting cozy with spiced treats. I initially thought of rye to further play up the spice element but then wondered if barrel finished gin could accomplish a similar effect. If you tend to stay away from gin and favor whiskey instead, I suggest you give barrel finished gin a chance. The varieties I've sampled tend to have less of the sharpness of vodka and more of the smooth oak profile of whiskey, but with added herbal complexity. Finn's Gin by Chicago Distilling Company is one of my favorites (plus, it's local).
To round out the cocktail and give it some decadence, I added a touch of lemon and egg white foam. The result is smooth, nutty, lightly sweet and thoughtfully complex.
The Black Barrel
- 1.5 oz barrel finished gin
- 1.5 oz spiced apple cider
- 1/4 large lemon
- 1 egg white
- 3 drops black walnut bitters
Dry shake all ingredients (without ice) for 10-15 seconds, popping the cap occasionally to release the pressure from the egg white. Add ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a touch of fall spice (star anise, cinnamon or fresh nutmeg). Enjoy while skipping through a sea of multicolored leaves in your favorite fall sweater.