Saturday, September 7, 2013

Sunset of September Seventh

Back last summer while prepping for the Smokemont, I made a delightful purchase of rare/offbeat fruit preserves from Smoky Mountain Farms. In addition to Smokemont's huckleberry, I also picked up bottles of mayhaw and scuppernong jellies. Leaving aside the mayhaw for now, the state fruit of North Carolina is a whiter, muskier form of muscadine grape, whose earliest cultivar may be the "Mother Vine" from Roanoke Island. The scuppernong had this mild wine-like early-autumnal taste perfect for this moment in the season.

My thoughts instantly drifted to some form of Sour cocktail, a natural when using jellies or other preserves, possibly with cognac to match or maybe woody and orchard-fruited Dad's Hat* rye whiskey. I couldn't decide, so I split the spirits, noodled around the edges, and came up with something just right for this very moment.

* any other rye whiskey is going to be a step away from tthe intended result, Dad's Hat being quite distinct in its own way.

Sunset of September Seventh
3/4 oz Dad's Hat rye whiskey
3/4 oz cognac (Ferrand Ambre)
1/2 oz reposado tequila (Cazadores)
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz scuppernong jelly
1/4 oz Drambuie
5 drops Fee Bros. black walnut bitters

Shake all on ice - hard.

Double-strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

No garnish.

I first should note that the honor of doing a scuppernong jelly Sour goes first to B. T. Parsons for his Scuppernong Sour, from his Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All (itself a riff on Jamie Boudreau's Marmalade Sour). The germ of SoS7 was already in my mind when I got the book last fall, but it fell off for awhile until I checked on a misremembering and found his version used bourbon and egg white. That was great motivation to keep going and add in some tweaks to help this drink further stand on its own (though I did borrow the extra 1/4 oz sweet from his structure - I think the jelly's pectin negates some of its sweetness, or at least my jar's did. YMMV.).

I had started with a classic 2 : 1 : 1 structure for this sour with rye and cognac, but the base spirits seemed a bit overwhelmed by the sweet and sour elements. So I pulled both of those elements back while adding a third base, buttery highlands reposado tequila to help dry it further (but not overmuch that the agave note would stick out like a sore thumb). And these mods pretty much made the cocktail.

The overall flavor is an emergent one, but depending on the sip you get those hints of agave, or a wash on palate and nose of maple syrup and birch wood from the rye and bitters, or perhaps a view down to the copper horn of cognac on which everything rests. The egg white seemed like so much gilding with everything else going on, so I omitted it - but the jelly's pectin adds a lovely body. The scuppernong flavor itself is mild and mellow, but it dominates in its own way. I added the Drambuie instead of simple syrup to help keep with the overall "golden" aesthetic, and it helps round edges with faint herbs and scotch-smoke where they would otherwise be flat.

You get a little bit of summer in the glass from the lemon and tequila, while slowly moving into autumnal flavors with the cognac and rye. Shake up a glass for yourself today and toast the rays of gold falling on you and the ever-darkening shadows. This is the best time of year.