Cold-weather cocktails aren’t limited to eggnogs and mulled ciders. In fact, the flavors of fall and winter can be just as exciting, and even as refreshing, as those beachy concoctions we sip during the summer. And there’s an ingredient you may not have considered that is definitely worth adding to your repertoire — scotch.
In this Spiced Orchard Pear recipe from The Culinary Institute of America, scotch is the unexpected star. The drink highlights the best of the fall season, with notes of citrus to help you ease into the snowy winter.
CIA instructor Rory Brown says, “The flavor from the orange liqueur and the lemon juice balance the cocktail and act as a transition into winter.”
Of course, it wouldn’t be a fall cocktail without the familiar flavors of juicy pear and the warmth of spices, and while you may be less accustomed to using scotch in cocktails, this recipe may change your mind. Though its name may conjure up images of mens’ clubs and leather-bound books, a new generation is helping to move it into the mainstream.
Scotch is basically the embodiment of fall, with its caramel flavors perfectly complimenting the aroma from your neighbor’s fireplace. And while many think of scotch as whisky’s smoky cousin, not all Scotch is smoky.
Widely regarded for its long history, Scotch is a whisky — much like those produced in the U.S. — made in Scotland under some very specific requirements. Part of the historical process is to toast and dry the malt before processing. Peat, a sort of spongy, mossy material that is abundant in the earth of Ireland and Scotland, remains a popular fuel source in Scotland. When burned, peat gives off an unmistakably fragrant smoke, and when used to dry the malt, it imparts a strong flavor that carries through to the finished product.
The scotches produced on the island of Islay are known to be among the smokiest (or, the peatiest), but overall, scotches run the gamut in color, flavor, and aroma, and certainly not all are created equal. Experiment with producers, regions, and blends to find your favorite.
By now, you should be checking to see if it’s cocktail hour. But don’t rush it, because you have a few things to do first. The best cocktails don’t come easy — except for gin and tonics, which are easy and perfect, but not seasonally appropriate — but luckily, this one is pretty close.
You can find pear puree in the freezer section of some grocery stores, but if not, just put 3 to 4 peeled and cored pears in a saucepan with about 1/4 cup of water. Cook until the pears are soft, then blend them to a smooth puree. Cool them before using, and keep in the refrigerator for a week or so. While it’s cooling, make your simple syrup.
Simple syrups are an equal mix of sugar and water, boiled to dissolve the sugar. We often add flavorings like vanilla, fruit essence, or spices. Make your simple syrup weeks ahead, if you like. And use any leftover syrup in other cocktails (it screams fall sangria), to sweeten iced tea, or even tossed with apples for your apple pie.
We know that not everyone is on the prowl for a good cocktail, so if you would prefer a nonalcoholic version, combine the pear puree, lemon juice, and simple syrup with a splash of club soda, seltzer, or good quality ginger beer. You can torch the end of the cinnamon stick (we give a quick how-to in the recipe) for a smoky garnish that is just like the real deal.
SPICED ORCHARD PEAR
Start to finish: 25 minutes (Active time: 5 minutes)
2 ounces blended Scotch
3/4 ounce pear puree
1/2 ounce orange liqueur
1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 ounce Winter Syrup (recipe below)
1 cinnamon stick, for garnish (see note)
In a cocktail shaker, combine the Scotch, pear puree, orange liqueur, lemon juice, and syrup. Add ice, then shake until well-combined.
Strain into a rocks glass, over fresh ice, and garnish with the cinnamon stick.
Chef’s Note: If desired, lightly burn one end of the cinnamon stick with a torch. Invert the rocks glass over the cinnamon stick on a heat-safe surface or plate while you prepare the cocktail.
Makes about 3 cups syrup
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
The peel of 1 orange, white pith removed
1 star anise
3 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
5 cardamom pods
Combine water, sugar, orange peel, anise, cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
Cook until the mixture is simmering and the sugar has dissolved.
Set aside until cool, then strain. Refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.
Nutrition information per serving: 211 calories; 0 calories from fat; 0 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 7 mg sodium; 13 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 10 g sugar; 0 g protein.