The Fig Old-Fashioned

The ex-boyfriend of an ex-friend of mine, a guy who last I heard is now an ex-actor, played the cunnilinguistic Mr. Pussy on an episode of Sex and the City. His audition for the part, I remember hearing at the time, entailed eating (out?) a fig with oral, in flagrante delicto brio.

But that's neither here or there. I actually want to talk about figs today because, as I'm hoping at least a few of you noticed over the weekend, I posted on this blog's Facebook page that I was playing with a recipe I'd found at The Kitchn for a Fig Old-Fashioned.  It caught my attention because I happen to have some figs on hand in a very-delicious-and-not-at-all-derelict way. Back in August my friend Jackie visited us and, upon spotting figs at the Jean-Talon Market, declared herself a huge fan and promptly purchased some. Most of them wound up becoming the property of The Five O'Clock Cocktail Blog (certain restrictions apply), and the PhoBlograpHusband, as he is wont to do, immediately set about brandying them.

You brandy, jar up and refrigerate a fruit like a fig or a cherry (which we use in place of maraschino), it's gonna last you a looong time. The one I chose for this cocktail was still springy and held its shape perfectly. And when I muddled it with maple syrup (The Kitchn says to use "Grade B, if you can find it." Pshaw, in Canada there's no maple grading because EVERYTHING IS AWESOME), I could hear the fig seeds crunching, exactly the way they do when you bite down on a Fig Newton. (And now you pretty much know every fig reference life has provided me so far: Newtons, Jackie visiting, Mr. Pussy. Truth be told I don't think about figs much.)

Also truth be told: I wasn't entirely sure if I'd like, or even be able to palate, this recipe. Mostly because of the balsamic vinegar. I'm definitely a fan of vinegar in cocktails, it's just that one whole teaspoon of balsamic straight up seemed like it would be way too much. The only time I'd ever used unadulterated balsamic for a cocktail was to spatter some Pollock-style atop an egg-white-foamy concoction, more for effect than taste.

But the verdict is: This cocktail rocks! Its overall sweetness does mirror that of a classic Old-Fashioned, but I actually think it's way more complex in its start-to-finish flavor profile. And yet, while also multifaceted, the ingredients coalesce very well;  you really won't taste the vinegar at all, although I'm sure it's in there doing something essential to bridge everything together.

The Fig Old-Fashioned

(Adapted slightly from The Kitchn)

1 1/2 ounces Jim Bean Black bourbon

1/2 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice

1/4 ounce "Grade-B-if-you-can-find-it" maple syrup

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 California black mission fig

Orange peel, to garnish (optional)

Remove the fig's stem and cut it into quarters. Put fig pieces in the bottom of a shaker. Add maple syrup and muddle until you've got a paste. Add bourbon, orange juice and vinegar, fill shaker with ice, and shake vigorously. Double-strain (see Tasting Notes) into an ice-filled highball glass.

Tasting Notes

Nitpick alert! The Kitchn says to do your muddling in a mixing glass, but then add the rest of your ingredients to said mixing glass before filling it with ice and shaking. Dear Kitchn, I wish my money grew on fair-traded, sustainably harvested, organic potted trees, but since it doesn't, I don't want to risk shaking my 'spensive mixing glass -- nay, chalice (emphasis mine, as is the decision to ostentatiously deem it a "chalice")Might I suggest sticking with a shaker throughout?

Double straining: Basically, get that liquid to pass through two forms of strainer on its way into the glass. Your second strain is probably going to come via a wire mesh tea strainer, which you'll perch just atop your cocktail glass. Your preliminary level of straining can come from a Hawthorne strainer or the built-in strainer located in the cap of a cobbler shaker.

I added the orange peel. Brings out the bouquet-ish quality of the drink. Mr. Pussy.

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The Mapplethorpe

So, now that my little Benjamin Button-esque ankle biters have been safely ferried off to see friends in Kingston, Ontario, methinks it a perfect time to unwind and chillax, the chilly autumn air providing the perfect backdrop for a little respite and reflection, and the flavors of the season (this is already starting to sound like a Hallmark card) taking the edge off frazzled nerves.

What I'm talking about is the fall-friendly, locavorish, apple-maple concoction Sean and I whipped up this weekend. We had some Calvados lying around, we had a bit left of our Sortilege maple liqueur (produit du Canada), we had terrific, local apples in peak season... and actually, we also had pomegranates on hand, because for reasons unknown the local grocer had them on sale for like 69 cents apiece (!!!). Sean took lead on this drink and tried to come up with something that incorporated all three. But as you might imagine, the drink came out physically and flavor-ly too muddled.

I suggested he drop the pomegranate part, that it tasted like we were trying too hard and to just trust in the apple and maple to see the drink though. (Yes, I worried that apple and maple was just so obvious. But as I've proven to myself a few times before, sometimes obvious is the exact-right way to go.)

Our new friend Farley -- who was having dinner with us that night, who likewise just moved to Montreal from the States  to study at McGill, who just started making his own beer at home but who knows so little about cocktails that he actually asked us what muddling was -- Farley asked me how I knew to get rid of the pomegranate. I basically told him to stick with me, kid.

The Mapplethorpe has a good amount of complexity. It gives your palate something to consider, but not so much that your brain isn't able to wander off on its own, contemplating the turn of the seasons and the taming of the shrew and whatever other lofty idealisms come to mind when you get the chance to curl into a cozy sweater and ponder brown leaves as they scatter down the street.

The Mapplethorpe

1 1/2 ounces Busnel Fine Calvados

3/4 ounces Sortilege

1/2 ounce lemon juice

2 dashes Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged Biters

Two apple slices

Maple syrup (optional)

Muddle an apple slice and the bitters in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Fill shaker with ice and add Calvados, Sortilege and lemon juice. Shake vigorously. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with other apple slice, if you like, after dipping it in some maple syrup.

Tasting Notes

Don't be tempted to skip the lemon juice! It's an essential brightener for the rest of your flavors.

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