Spiced Cherry Cobbler Cocktail

Spiced Cherry Cobbler Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThe Willet line of whiskeys are a hardy bunch. By that I mean when I drink them my throat feels like hot oil is being poured down it. Not a bad thing mind you, just one of those types of booze that I have to remember that fact about. Now, some of you might ‘tsk me about this, especially since Willet isn’t cheap, but you know what? I will use it as a base sometimes.

*ducks as rocks are thrown*

Look, I enjoy my whiskeys neat, but sometimes I taste something and I think to myself, this would go well with X. And in this case, a couple ounces of Willet go well with the cherry syrup I made last week. And all those lonely cherries that were left behind.

When I started reading about cocktails and really starting delving deeper into their history, I came across the concept of ‘cobblers’. Not the dessert, but a drink in which you decorate a mound of ice with booze and fruit among other things. Kinda like a tarted up adult sno-cone. I loved the idea of these ‘beverages’; they seemed so old fashioned to me. I have been making notes for almost 2 years now on doing this, but just never got around to it. Until now.Spiced Cherry Cobbler Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

After making that cherry syrup I found that I had a bag of sugary, smooshed cherries that needed some love. So I decided now was the time to start tinkering with cobblers. I’m marking this post as a good starting place, but already I’ve thought of some ways to improve upon it. Here’s a big tip: don’t go too fine with the ice. It melts too quick and you find all your cherries and liquid will start quickly plopping over the side of your dish. For presentation’s sake I made this in a shallow dish, thinking that I could mound the cherries on top, however, they all sank due to my ice crusher’s overzealous attempts to pulverize the ice and thus resulting in quickly melting ice. You would be better off to pile the ice in a collins glass and stick the fruit on top. Also, go easy with the ice! Too much and it waters your drink down too quickly.Spiced Cherry Cobbler Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

If you follow those guidelines you’ll be on your way to enjoying this summery, refreshing cocktail. So, grab a spoon and a straw and let’s get started.

2 oz. Willet, Straight Rye Whiskey
1 oz. Spiced Cherry Syrup (recipe found here)
1/4 cup Cherries from the syrup batch (can sub out with Luxardo cherries if you’ve ditched/eaten the cherries from the syrup batch)
1 cup Crushed Ice (not too fine)
Cinnamon Stick
Sprig of Mint

In a shallow dish, place the cherries in the bottom (if using a Collins glass, reserve for the end). Mix whiskey and syrup with half of the crushed ice gently to combine. Pour into dish. Pack more ice on top. Slap your mint to release the oil and garnish the drink. Grate fresh cinnamon on top.

Now, here’s the fun thing about the cobbler: do you eat the fruit first? Or do you stick your straw in (go to the very bottom where the syrup, juice and whiskey have collected) and drink up? Your choice. You can even alternate if you’re not a weirdo like me and need to choose one or the other (I was that kid who only ate one food group at a time off their plate and never combined anything, occasionally this annoying trait finds its way back into my life once in a blue moon).Spiced Cherry Cobbler Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Enjoying this cocktail is like having a more subtle version of an icee, with alcohol. The ice tones down the heat of the whiskey and it mixes with the cherries for a sweet and lightly spiced flavor combo. This is not your convenience store cherry flavor mind you. Don’t go in thinking it’s like that or you’ll be disappointed. It’s a fresh cherry flavor, and in a way more muted. This has been enjoyed with the extreme heat we’ve been having this summer, and this has helped cool me down, sans the uber-sugary fake flavor you’d find elsewhere. Next time though I think I’ll pre-make a snowball with a hole in it to keep the ice-melting at bay.

Red Ruth Cocktail

Red Ruth Cocktail // Stirandstrain.comLos Angeles over the past few years has become laden with some of the best craft cocktail bars in the country (deal with it New York). But where will you find me come Happy Hour on a Tuesday? Probably bar-side at the Tonga Hut out in the Valley. A darkly lit Tiki Bar nestled in-between a model train shop and a store front bridal “boutique”, this place sees my face almost weekly. Why? Currently I am trying to complete the Grog Log along with fellow drink/food blogger Nathan Hazard so that after completing the imbibing of all 90-something drinks on the list (within one year), a plaque with my name will be placed on the wall of this darkly lit Valley bar. But still, why bother you ask? I love having goals. But really, it’s a great way to become VERY familiar with Tiki drinks and all the ways the flavors come into play. This bar does a lot of in-house mixes and syrups and the woman running the beverage program, Marie, takes it all to heart and is adamant about making Tiki drinks taste the way they were meant to taste from way back in the heyday of Tiki days. I appreciate it. If you’ve trolled around my blog long enough now, you would see that I share the same sentiments when it comes to cocktails. Even tiki cocktails can be craft.

So why am I writing about this? Besides needing something to write about for an intro, I was over at the Tonga Hut the other night completing my list and tasted the Cruzana cocktail. Its ingredients were modest: grapefruit, maraschino syrup, rum. It was not very sweet, and had a lovely bitter quality to it that I enjoy in cocktails, which got me thinking… how could I expand on this? Twist it into something my non-Tiki drinking friends would like to have? Take the rum out and make a syrup!

And so I did just that.

Let’s ignore the beige walls and countertop in the photo. This was perfected over the 4th Holiday at my in-laws, who love beige. Let’s just focus on how tasty and refreshing this drink is when temps are soaring over 90 lately.
cherry-syrup //stirandstrain.com

The first ingredient I sought to improve upon was the cherry syrup, or rather, the dredges from the kool-aid colored cherries. Cherries are in season right now, why not make a super-tasty syrup from them? It barely takes any effort other than pitting them. But that’s what a cherry pitter is for. Bam, done in two minutes.

Fresh Cherry Syrup

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 cup pitted cherries
1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 oz. freshly squeezed meyer lemon juice
1/2 oz. grenadine (home made is best!)

Combine first three ingredients in a saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover and let sit for two hours. Strain solids from liquids and add next three ingredients to mix. Stir to combine. If not using immediately, add 1/2 ounce of vodka to mix, or leave out vodka if using within 2 weeks.redruth-cherry

The syrup produces a fresh cherry flavor with light syrup. It’s more juicy than syrupy. The citrus and grenadine balances the syrup out from being too subtle in flavor. They act almost like bitters in that it rounds it out to a fuller flavor. And on a side note, I could totally pour this all over some pancakes. Just FYI.

And then there was the drink.

2 oz. St. George Botanivore Gin
2 oz. freshly squeezed white grapefruit juice
3/4 oz. home made cherry syrup (recipe above)
2 drops of Miracle Mile Chocolate Chile Bitters

3 Luxardo cherries for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker 2/3 filled with ice, shake and pour unstrained into a Collins glass. Garnish with Luxardo Cherries.

Like I said, I took the rum out, and the flavor profile completely changed. That sweetness and spice from the rum took a backseat in the cherry syrup, and a more botanical, herbaceous flavor moved to the front. The bitters tone down the sweet just enough. Citrus flavors are complimented by the bright, herbaceous gin. I specifically used this gin from St. George spirits to create a more interesting layer with the fruits and in the end, a refreshing summer drink that moves away from the realm of Tiki.

This past weekend I was asked “what makes a drink tiki?”, and admittedly, I was stumped to have a concrete answer. Is it a drink with rum? Well, no. There are drinks in the Grog Log with vodka, whiskey and gin. Is it the tropical flavors? Again, not necessarily. And at that point I realized I couldn’t give a concrete answer. Maybe it’s all in the garnish, the presentation…the state of mind! Regardless, here, by switching out the gold rum with a gin, and having some softer fruit flavors, the cocktail no longer is a tropical drink and more in line with just something for summer. Thoughts are always welcome on this subject….