Five-Spice Butternut Bourbon Cocktail

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Five-Spice Butternut Bourbon

As I sip this unusual Five-Spice Butternut Bourbon Cocktail I’m filled with a bit of post season summer nostalgia. I look at the calendar and I plainly see that autumn is in full swing. But still, I sometimes find myself looking over my shoulder searching for the invisible hand tugging on the back of my t-shirt. It’s the feeling that summer won’t let go of me. Or maybe I mean that I won’t let go of summer with its trips to the beach, ice-cream sandwiches and warm sighs of childhood nostalgia. However, like the tickling sensation from the fluttering of a lightning bug wiggling inside my cupped hands, summer nostalgia is a fleeting feeling.

Butternut Bourbon helps me realize that it’s time to quit dragging my flip flops and embrace sweater season. The days may be getting shorter, but autumn doesn’t need to seem like the end of anything. I’m not alone in this feeling. In The Great Gatsby, Jordan, in replying to Daisy’s melancholy about the end of her Gatsby summer says: “Don’t be morbid . . . life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”

And so it does. When I think of fall, I think of the rich hues of the changing leaves, the smell of smoke in the air and the warm flavors of winter squash. As much as I love these combinations whirled into a creamy soup or layered into a rich flaky crust – let’s not forget that they can be shaken and stirred just as easily as baked and braised.

Five-Spice Butternut Bourbon

Which is how I came to find myself infusing butternut squash into bourbon as a way of welcoming the possibilities of the new season. I’ll admit butternut bourbon is an unusual combination, but if you’re looking for a unique cocktail to serve on Thanksgiving these flavors are naturals for the cool weather and festive spirits. Five-spice syrup amps up the flavor and lends an earthy depth of sugar and spice. Perfect for the season. GREG

five spice syrup butternut

Five-Spice and Butternut Squash Bourbon

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Five-Spice and Butternut Squash Bourbon

Ingredients

  • 1 small butternut squash (about 1 pound)
  • 1 (750 ml) bottle bourbon
  • 4 whole star anise pods
  • 1 tablespoon whole anise seeds
  • 3 (3-inch) cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves (lightly cracked)
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns (lightly cracked)
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 ½ ounce prepared squash-infused bourbon
  • ½ ounce prepared five-spice syrup
  • 2-3 dash Angostura bitters
  • ice cubes (as needed)
  • 1 wide strip of orange peel (as garnish)

Directions

Make the squash-infused bourbon: Place the oven rack in the center position and preheat the oven to 450°F. Place the whole butternut squash on a baking sheet and bake until blistered and soft enough that you can easily pierce the skin with a knife, about 1 1⁄2 hours. Remove from the oven and set aside until cool enough to handle but still quite warm.

Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and fibers from the center and discard them. Pull off the skin and discard it. Cut the flesh into 2-inch chunks. Place the pieces in a large, nonreactive container. Add the bourbon while the squash is still warm; this will help the infusion process. Cover and set aside in a dark area for 3 days, swirling the mixture occasionally. Taste the infusion; it should have a pronounced sweet squash flavor. If so, strain the liquid through a sieve, lined with a double layer of damp cheesecloth, discarding the solids. This infusion makes more than you need for just one cocktail, but it can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 month.

Make the five-spice syrup: Add star anise, fennel seeds, cinnamon stick pieces, cloves, and peppercorns to a small, dry saucepan set over medium-high heat, shaking the pan often, until noticeably fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in sugar and water and heat until it just begins to reach a low boil. Adjust the heat to keep the liquid at a simmer for 5 more minutes, turn off heat and steep the syrup for an hour. Strain the syrup through a fine-mesh sieve then place it in a lidded container and store in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before using.

Make the cocktail: Add the prepared squash-infused bourbon, prepared five-spice syrup, and bitters to a cocktail shaker and fill the shaker with ice cubes; shake until well chilled. Double-strain through a fine-mesh sieve into an Old-Fashioned glass filled with three medium or one extra-large cube of ice. Twist, spritz, and garnish with a wide strip of orange peel.

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