I apologize that not all of you will be able to make this. Loquats tend to grow in warm, subtropical regions and they are rarely sold commercially. But for those of us who live in the "loquat belt," these trees can offer a supply of seemingly endless free fruit. I grew up with them in south Texas, where I spent many a spring afternoon sitting high in the branches of a loquat tree, snacking on the fuzzy fruits and aiming their big, shiny seeds at siblings below. Here in Los Angeles, my neighborhood is exploding with loquats, yet too few people are aware that they are edible.
There are hundreds of loquat varieties, of which I have tried maybe half a dozen, and the ones I like best taste like a combination of apricot, plum, pear, and lychee. I've eaten loquats as small as gooseberries and as large as apricots, ranging in color from sunny yellow to rich orange. In the past few weeks, I have experimented with all kinds of loquat creations, from baked goods to preserves to libations.
This loquat bourbon cocktail is based on the classic whiskey smash, with the muddled fruit providing a sweet-tart flavor and smooth body. Along with mint, it makes a refreshing late spring-early summer cocktail. Due to variations in the sweetness and acidity of loquat fruit, you may want to adjust the recipe, adding more or less simple syrup and/or lemon juice. However, I have made this loquat bourbon smash with a couple of different types and it was splendid every time.
Loquat Bourbon Smash
Makes 1 drink
3 ounces loquats (approximately 6-8), halved and seeded
4 fresh mint leaves
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 ounce loquat simple syrup (see below) or plain simple syrup
2 ounces bourbon
1 sprig of mint
Muddle the loquats, mint, lemon juice, and simple syrup in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add bourbon and ice and shake well.
Strain into an ice-filled old fashioned or rocks glass. Garnish with a spanked sprig of mint and serve.
Variation: If you like a little fizz, the drink may be topped off with soda water.
Loquat Simple Syrup
Makes approximately 1 cup
1 1/2 cups halved and seeded loquats
Approximately 3/4 cups granulated sugar
Place loquats in a saucepan with just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer 15 minutes. Mash loquats with a potato masher or fork and strain. Discard solids.
Measure liquid and return to saucepan with an equal amount of sugar. Bring to a boil and stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and cool completely.
Store in a clean, airtight container in the refrigerator.
Related: Ingredient Spotlight: Loquats
(Images: Emily Ho)