Toast Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, cloves, and fennel in a dry, medium skillet over medium heat, tossing and stirring frequently until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add cinnamon stick, sugar, and water and place over medium high heat. Cook, stirring, until just starting to boil. Cover and remove from heat. Let rest for 2 hours. Strain into an airtight container. Five-spice syrup will last up to two weeks in the refrigerator.
For 4 Cocktails:
6 ounces bourbon, such as 4 Roses Yellow Label
3 ounces Five-Spice Syrup (see above)
2 ounces fresh juice from 2 to 3 limes
8 ounces club soda
Lime wedges for garnish
In a pitcher, combine bourbon, 3 ounces Five-spice syrup, and lime juice. Stir well. Add club soda and stir gently. To serve, fill rocks glasses with ice, pour in 4-3/4 ounces of the cocktail and top with lime wedges.
The sweet, savory, and pungent flavors of the Five Spice Syrup are an excellent pair to the rich, slightly sweet bourbon. And when you add in the lime juice and club soda, the whole cocktail gets loosened up a bit and really is quite refreshing.
Combine blackberries and sugar in a bowl. Lightly crush the blackberries to release their juices (I used a potato masher, but a fork would suffice). Cover and let sit 8 hours or overnight. Shake the bowl every once in awhile to make sure the sugar is incorporating into the juice. Half way through, stir the mixture and re-cover.
Next, strain the mixture through a fine strainer into an airtight container. Add the vinegar and shake well (if any sugar has remained, shake hard to dissolve here). Store the container in the refrigerator for 6 days.
After 6 days give it a taste. Usually, by day 6 the sharpness of the vinegar has started to pull back and let the sweetness from the sugar and fruit stand out more. Keep in mind, this is a vinegar base: it will ALWAYS taste like vinegar. The vinegar will mellow more as it sits but its zing is what is wanted in a shrub.
For this shrub, there is a nice sweet and sour balance from the ingredients. The blackberries produce a tartness that is heightened from the vinegar while the sugar cuts through to keep your mouth from puckering. Strong nose of vinegar with subtle berry.