Five-Spice Bourbon Punch

5 Spice Bourbon Punch cocktails // stirandstrain.comCurrently I am sitting in a nicely air-conditioned room while outside is reaching temperatures of 117°F today. My birthday was this past week and I’ve decided that I’d like to spend all of my 30-year birthdays drifting around in a pool, drink in hand (or in an inflatable cup holder,what’s wrong with that?) while spending a few days in Palm Springs. For most of my 20-year birthdays, I somehow coordinated almost all of them to happen at bowling alleys and I’m a person who likes traditions so if I could somehow work it out that all of my 40’s are spent in castles in Europe I’d very much like that.

5 Spice Bourbon Punch cocktails // stirandstrain.comBut I’m not in the pool today. It’s too hot. While it might seem that the best way to counteract the scorching heat would be to live in the pool, I find that when temps creep almost to 120°F, the water ceases to be refreshing. The water, too, is hot.

5 Spice Bourbon Punch cocktails // stirandstrain.comSo the backup plan is to escape to the air-conditioned comfort of the house, draw the shades, and make myself a beverage to cool off with. Sweet, icy drinks are no good when it’s this hot out. Anything with a high sugar content right now makes me cranky and gives me a headache, and that’s the last thing you want when you have guests that are around trying to celebrate you. (Cake, by the way, does not count in this category.) So instead I batched up a savory, spicy syrup (because spicy is actually good for you when it’s hot out. Look at Indian food.) and mixed it up with some bourbon for a refreshing punch. Spicy bourbon punch is refreshing? Read about that argument here on Serious Eats when I just recently batched this drink up.

For now, I’ll park myself next to a large window, occasionally glance outside and remind myself it’s too hot to breathe and enjoy my cocktails in air-conditioned comfort. Happy weekend folks (and Happy Father’s Day to all you Dad’s out there)!5 Spice Bourbon Punch cocktails // stirandstrain.com

For the Five-Spice Syrup:

1 teaspoon whole Sichuan peppercorns
1 whole star anise pod
1 (6-inch) cinnamon stick or 2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
5 whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole fennel seed
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar

  • 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.