New-Fashioned Classic Cocktails Warm Winter Spirits
Story and photos by Alexis Abel
Tis the season of cold days and even darker nights. We’re months away from spring, and we could all use a little something to warm our spirits from the winter chill. This season, turn to winter fruits of cranberry and pomegranate to infuse new life into two classic cocktails.
Packed with phytonutrients, antioxidants and vitamins C and E, cranberries are among the healthiest of seasonal berries. The tart, marble-size berries are cultivated in bogs in Massachusetts, Oregon, Wisconsin and Washington.
The natural pucker-inducing tartness of cranberries is a perfect contrast to sweet Brazilian cachaça (ka-SHA-sa). Like its cousin, Caribbean rum, cachaça comes from sugarcane, but its production and distillation are remarkably different. Cachaça is considered a designation of origin product, similar to the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) for Champagne, and can only be produced in Brazil. The spirit is always made from the fresh-pressed juice of sugarcane, while rum is a by-product of the production of molasses, also made from sugarcane juice.
The difference in production between rum and cachaça results in a widely different taste profile. Unaged cachaça is light and fresh, with notes of grass, while older, aged cachaças are loaded with flavors of baking spice and dried fruit.
The most popular way to drink cachaça is in a Caipirinha (kai-per-REEN-ya). Known as Brazil’s natural cocktail, the beloved “Caipi” is made with just three ingredients. It’s easy to make—and even easier to drink. For a seasonal twist, I added a taste of winter to this otherwise summery cocktail, with an infusion of fresh cranberries and Cranberry Simple Syrup.
¾ ounce Cranberry Simple Syrup (see recipe below)
10 fresh cranberries
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
⅛ of a lime, cut into wedges
2 ounces cachaça
Add Cranberry Simple Syrup, fresh cranberries, dark brown sugar and a wedge of lime to the bottom of a cocktail shaker. With the back of a spoon or a muddler, muddle until lime and other ingredients are blended. Add ice and cachaça. Shake until chilled, about 10 to 15 seconds. Taste and add additional Cranberry Simple Syrup or brown sugar until desired sweetness is achieved. Pour drink, with ice, into a rocks glass. Add additional ice and garnish with a lime wedge.
Cranberry Simple Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 cup fresh cranberries
Place water, sugar and cranberries in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Strain out cranberries and chill until ready to use. Strained cranberries can be reserved and spread on toast or mixed into yogurt or oatmeal. Cranberry Simple Syrup can be refrigerated for up to one month.
Pomegranate Old Fashioned with Winter Spices
In season from September to March, ruby red pomegranates were originally brought to California by Spanish settlers in the late 18th century. The pomegranate is actually a berry, and its size approximates that of a grapefruit and features a thick, reddish skin. The actual edible part of the berry is the jewel-like seeds nestled in its thick, bitter pulp.
It’s easy to remove the seeds of a pomegranate by opening the berry with a sharp knife and then whacking the rind with the back of a spoon or by immersing the berry under water. Once the seeds are removed, they can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. You can also find the seeds already removed from the rind in local specialty organic or gourmet stores.
The dark fruitiness of pomegranate lends itself to the complex tones of the Old Fashioned. This historic cocktail was invented in the late 19th century and consists of whiskey muddled with bitters, sugar and citrus.
The Pomegranate Old Fashioned blends the rich berry with sweet bourbon, brown sugar and aromatic bitters along with bright, seasonal citrus and warming winter spices of cinnamon and nutmeg.
Pomegranate Old Fashioned
1 slice orange
10–15 pomegranate seeds
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
4 dashes orange bitters
4 dashes Angostura bitters
2 ounces bourbon
1–2 large or 3–4 small cubes of ice
Splash of club soda (optional)
Freshly ground nutmeg (about 1/16 teaspoon)
Place orange slice, pomegranate seeds, dark brown sugar and bitters in the bottom of a rocks glass. With the back of a spoon or a muddler, muddle until all ingredients are blended. Add bourbon and ice. Stir briskly to chill. Add a splash of club soda, if desired. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and freshly ground nutmeg. Serve immediately.