I will be making eggnog at a pot luck later this week, and so was looking for a cocktail in which to use the leftover bourbon. I wanted a simple drink that wouldn’t require the purchase of additional, expensive ingredients. A mint julep sounded good but too summery; I liked the idea of building my cocktail on muddled mint, however. Adding a flavored simple syrup to that base seemed like the right next step to a flavorful cocktail. Ginger came to mind as a natural complement to mint and bourbon, with its winter-appropriate hot kick. Vanilla would round up the flavor combination and pick up on the smoother notes of bourbon while also keeping the ginger in check. I use Buffalo Trace for cocktails, which is an assertive bourbon with a sweet, smokey flavor that pairs well with bitters.
After the Nog
1/2 fl. ounce ginger-vanilla simple syrup (recipe below) 2 fl. ounces bourbon 4-5 dashes orange bitters (preferably Regans’ Orange Bitters No. 6.)
In a cocktail shaker, muddle the mint leaves with the simple syrup. Fill with ice and pour in the bourbon and bitters. Shake well, then strain into a chilled old-fashioned glass. Garnish with the mint sprig.
1 cup light brown sugar
Ginger-Vanilla Simple Syrup
1 4-inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into thick slices 2 vanilla beans, halved and scraped
Bring the sugar, 1 cup water, ginger slices, and vanilla beans to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Continue to cook for about 2 minutes. If the sugar sticks to the sides of the pan, dip a pastry brush in water and brush the sides. Remove from the heat and let steep for 20 minutes.
Strain the cooled syrup into a plastic or glass container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.