Inspired by the Courting Rachel. (yea, I must hie to Seattle, post-haste!)
2 oz rye-emphasis bourbon or rye whiskey (I used Bulleit 95 Rye)
1/2 tsp huckleberry preserves
3-4 dashes Fee Bros. Black Walnut bitters
Maple-candied thick-cut hickory-smoked bacon*
hickory wood chips**
Stir together huckleberry preserves and black walnut bitters in a mixing glass.
Add ice and whiskey, then stir until chilled.
Strain into a chilled and hickory-smoked old-fashioned glass over ice and garnish with a maple-candied bacon twist.
* Prep 1 Wrap a raw slice of bacon around a tubular or conical oven-safe object and bake in the oven on a cookie sheet until set and the fat is no longer squishy/chewy (only just-so). (40 minutes at 350° F worked for my oven, but ymmv) The main point is to create a non-static-shaped bacon slice so it looks pretty in the glass and is firm enough to hold up while soaking in liquid, so if you've got a better idea, by all means..
Once the bacon is ready, remove from the oven, remove the shaping-object and pat dry with paper towels, and wipe the grease from the cookie sheet. Once cool enough to handle, coat the bacon in maple syrup and return to the oven on the cookie sheet to bake at a low temp (250° for 20 or so minutes), turning halfway through and re-coating for evenness. Remove from the oven when the coating ceases to be liquid and let cool - this will let the candy shell set-up.
** Prep 2 As you're prepping the bacon, chill your serving old-fashioned glass in the freezer. Once the bacon comes out of the oven to let the candy coat set, now is the time to smoke your serving glass. In a fire/ash-safe dish (ash trays from thrift shops are handy like that), add some thin smolder-ready hickory chips and set them alight so they produce smoke but not fire. (since the dry chips I used were so small, I poured a little water on them for a moment, poured it off, then stuck their dish in the oven with the bacon to dry enough to catch fire) If you have another source of hickory smoke like a BBQ or a Smoking Gun, more power to you. Invert your serving glass over the smoke and let it gather the aroma while you're mixing.
- I used Smoky Mountain Farms Huckleberry Jam since it's difficult to come by fresh huckleberries in the Philadelphia area. If you have a chance to get fresh huckleberries, try muddling them with a bit of sugar for an even better taste. The jam I used was very bright with sugar (ingredients: huckleberries, sugar, pectin, citric acid), so while it didn't differ too much from straight sugar, the berry flavor did add a touch of earthiness which integrated well with the other flavors and better than would sugar alone.
- The bacon's fat blends into the black walnut bitters and enhances them. Sugar, fat, salt, smoke - the drink hits all those primal food needs and rye's spice, wood notes and alcohol grand slams them out of the park. Seriously, don't eat the garnish separate from the drink - it creates a...climactic...feedback loop.
- The hickory smoke isn't too overt on the nose - the bacon dominates - but it does tie the drink together and make the bacon fit with everything else going on. A subtle resonance, really.
- Not only does the maple syrup add to the woody quality of the drink and give the garnish an added (delightful) crunch, it preserves the bacon from getting soggy as you sip.