Here's a delicious variation on an old favorite, made with fresh figs, bourbon, maple syrup and...balsamic vinegar? Yes, you read that right.
The old-fashioned, traditionally made with bourbon, sugar, bitters, and orange, is almost as old as the cocktail itself. Its simplicity invites endless variation, so when I set out to create a cocktail with figs and bourbon, of course the idea doing a sort of autumnal old-fashioned popped into my head. Maple syrup is a natural choice for fall, but what about the balsamic vinegar?
I included the balsamic vinegar for two reasons: 1. I love balsamic vinegar, and cannot stop putting it in pretty much everything. 2. Having made this recipe, which I highly recommend, I already knew that balsamic vinegar and figs were good together. So into the mix the vinegar went, and the result was lovely - a sweet-but-not-too-sweet cocktail where the figs, bourbon, orange, and maple all bring something to the table. (I've made other drinks with balsamic vinegar that are distinctly savory, but in this case, the vinegar serves to deepen and round out the taste, a little like the bitters in a traditional old-fashioned.)
1 California black mission fig
1 1/2 oz bourbon
1/2 oz fresh-squeezed orange juice
1/4 oz maple syrup (Grade B, if you can find it)
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
Remove the stem from the fig and cut it into quarters. Place the fig pieces in the bottom of a mixing glass. Add the maple syrup and muddle into a paste. Add the bourbon, orange juice, and balsamic vinegar, and fill the glass with ice. Shake and double strain into an old-fashioned glass with ice. (The video demonstrates double straining with a Boston shaker, but it's easy to double strain from a traditional shaker too; just pour from the shaker through a tea strainer. Double straining will keep you from finding little bits of fig pulp and seeds in your drink. If you have a choice, pick a tea strainer with a somewhat coarser mesh; this will make the straining process go a bit faster.)
Nancy Mitchell loves bourbon and balsamic vinegar, sometimes together. You can find more of her recipes on her blog, The Backyard Bartender.
(Images: Nancy Mitchell)