While many of us are bemoaning the encroachment of NAS single malt whisky in our scotch cabinets, kitschy bottles of flavored whiskies are popping up everywhere. I have succumbed to a few of these products starting back when Macallan introduced Amber Liqueur, a maple and pecan infused single malt whisky, to the market. I prefer it mixed with maple syrup over French toast on a lazy weekend morning. And when I heard it was being discontinued I went on a hunt and finally found and bought the six remaining bottles at an out-of-the way liquor/grocery store. I’m not a hoarder – I gave two away to other Amber enthusiasts. Interestingly enough, a small number are for sale online at The Whisky Exchange for $230 +. Do I sell or do I keep? Always a question, but after a moment of hesitation I always keep. Anyway….While Amber has gone the way of the land line phone, other distilleries continue to tempt drinkers with a range of flavored whiskies. And, yes, I have at least two tucked in the bench with other random bottles.
So what’s a girl to do with these odd-lot type bottles? They are not single malt variations but still ought to used somehow.
It was Sunday morning, the Fourth of July celebrations were over and it was “middle” Sunday at Wimbledon and the US Women’s Soccer game was hours away. Recalling an article several years ago about finding uses for random liqueurs, I decided to spend the morning conjuring up a brunch menu with a newfangled cocktail. Unlike the Amber the two bottles each cost under $20, meaning no guilt nor harm would be done to the wallet if I had to waste some of it during the mixing and re-mixing.
First up was Cabin Fever an 80 proof, three year old non-charred barrel aged whisky infused with Vermont dark maple. Nose: every much maple syrup. Palate: the maple subsides a bit and there is a sense of some whisky. Finish is fast with a lingering maple sugar candy taste.
The second bottle was Black Velvet Cinnamon Rush at 70 proof. The name says it all. Nose: cinnamon. Palate: hot cinnamon candy from childhood. Finish: cinnamon. You get the picture.
A recent edition of Southern Living magazine passed along by a Texan friend featured a thick sliced bacon smothered in brown sugar, fresh rosemary and chopped pecans. The bacon sounded like the perfect accompaniment to anything that I might conjure up. Right, bacon improves everything. The cooking and conjuring began:
- 6 slices of extra thick bacon
- Combine, ¾ cup brown sugar, ¾ cup pecans, and 1-2 tablespoons rosemary. Add more or less of each ingredient to your own preference.The original recipe called for some crushed pepper, I like a combination of black pepper and hot pepper flakes.
- Press the bacon, both sides to the dry mixture. Put on a wire rack and place on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil.
- Bake in medium oven, 350 degrees, for at least 30 minutes till cooked. Ovens vary so keep an eye on it after the 30 minutes; and bacon will crisp up once removed from the oven.
Added to the plate would be grilled fresh peaches (I know they are ubiquitous these days) with a dollop of maple whisky whipped mascarpone. The peaches were the only healthy component of this plate! But no one was noticing.
- Depending on the size of the peaches, slice them in half or thirds with skin on, top to bottom. Remove the pit.
- Be sure to oil the grill. I use extra virgin oil and a cast iron stove top grilling pan. Cook till grill marks appear, flip over and grill a few more minutes.
- I added a bit of Maine Sea Salt to the peaches during grilling.
- ½ cup of mascarpone cheese
- 1 ounce of Cabin Fever – add more or less for thicker or thinner topping
- Hand whip the two ingredients till smooth
The cocktail was more of a challenge. I pulled out the bottle of Cabin Fever and the bottle of Canadian Black Velvet Cinnamon Rush. In the fridge was a bottle of mango-peach juice. The combination of these three ingredients would not suffice for a balanced cocktail, Four Roses Single Barrel bourbon came to the rescue. Be sure to add the Four Roses last – don’t waste any! The final result was served over rocks:
- ½ ounce Cabin Fever
- ¼ ounce Cinnamon Rush
- 1 ounce Four Roses, add more or less until you get your preferred taste.
- Splash of mango-peach juice
- Fresh mint leaves for decoration.
The dish and cocktail finally came together after about an hour or so of prepping, cooking and mixing. Certainly there was more sweet than savory but all together decadently yum.
Now that the experiment is over and my tummy full, I am gleefully returning the flavored whiskies back to the bench until I get another moment of summertime inspiration. The Four Roses stays upfront in the cabinet.
What does all this mean? Play with your food, play with your liquor/liqueur. Enjoy every moment. I am now going back to my first love, single malt whisky. No mixing, no icen no issues.
I raise a glass to the playfulness in all of us.