This is a great time of year to be a cocktail enthusiast, as the bounty of spring in all its abundant, fruity glory springs forth and offers us every kind of fruit for our mixing pleasure. Despite the random hot and cold snaps, we’re fortunate here in California to have reached strawberry, cherry, apricot, peach, mango, plum, loquat and passion fruit season. We’re blessed with citrus pretty much year-round in California, but it’s still a big thrill when you can get fresh stone fruit and berries again.
I splurged on some early apricots two weeks ago but my enthusiasm wasn’t rewarded; they were still a little too firm and bitter, so I had to turn to the old faithful dried apricots to get my fix. This cocktail comes from the pages of Raising the Bar (which I’ve crowed about incessantly enough already). The recipe caught my eye because the melding of apricots and bourbon seemed so natural that I was surprised I hadn’t run across other recipes calling for them together. I mean, really—bourbon, apricot brandy and the deliciousness of dried apricots? Where have I had my head?
(And yes, those are carrots and a bell pepper in the background of the photo. They have nothing to do with the recipe, but I was making dinner and didn’t want to waste time clearing the table before grabbing a photo, lest my drink become a water-logged mess. They are kind of pretty, though, aren’t they?)
1 1-inch knob fresh ginger, peeled* and cut into pieces
2 dried apricots
2 tsps sugar
4 oz bourbon
2 oz apricot brandy
4 oz water
Muddle ginger, apricots and sugar together well. Divide the mixture between two rocks glasses; add two ounces bourbon and one ounce apricot brandy to each glass and stir to combine. Fill each glass with ice, top with 2 oz water, stir well and serve.
*Amazingly enough, the best way to peel ginger is to scrape the skin off with a spoon. It sounds crazy, but it works like a charm.
While I hadn’t paired the flavors of apricot and bourbon before, I still had a really solid idea of what they would taste like together and my guess wasn’t wrong. This drink is delicious, with the woody characteristics of the bourbon and the warm, sweet flavor of the apricot complimented by the earthy, firey ginger. It is perhaps not surprising that it is good, but that doesn’t change its delicious nature. The only change I would make next time is to use a higher-quality apricot liqueur like Marie Brizard Apry or Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot. My bottle of apricot brandy is, unfortunately, fairly dubious.
Mautone recommends this as an alternative to the traditional Mint Julep for Derby Day, but I think it would be great served alongside Juleps at a summer barbeque. Maybe for dessert, with some vanilla bean ice cream and grilled apricots and peaches?