The Private Club Cocktail // stirandstrain.com Maple. Walnut. There really are only two places your mind is going to go after hearing these words in rapid succession. One is breakfast cereal, the other is wood types. If you can think of a third I’d love to hear about it.

I got it stuck in my head a few weeks back that what I needed on the site was a maple cocktail. But I couldn’t get out of the loop that it had to be a maple walnut cocktail. Problem with that duo is that it evokes a sticky sweetness that quite frankly sounded like a cocktail I would be serving at a kid’s party…if that makes any sense at all. Shear stubbornness on my part to keep this flavor duo won the house over in the end though. Want to know why? Citrus is the key to balancing a sweet cocktail. Well, and some bitter too but let’s keep this simple.

In its infancy, I was trying to work with a Manhattan variation but Rye was just not cutting it; too harsh. Cognac needed to step in and take over. And then I threw the sweet vermouth out and Amaro Nonino took its place. Angostura stayed put with the maple walnut flavor; just had to cut it with some lemon juice for balance.

Then suddenly it all made sense. The dark wood. The sexy cognac. This was a cocktail you’d find in a private club. I’d say gentlemen’s club but then you’d start thinking of pole dancing and that is not what I mean. This rich and superbly balanced cocktail is meant to be sipped in an overstuffed chair while you debate the sturdiness of the legs on some race horses you no doubt put a lot of money on for the win. There or by the fireplace wishing for the winter chill to pass. The Private Club Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Pro Tip: Just like you would sharpen/hone your knives, did you know you can also extend the life of your paring knife by doing this too? If you have knives you care about and own a Sharpening Steel, make sure you hone your paring knife before every use. Believe me, once I tried this out it made cutting citrus zest SO much easier since I had a nice sharp blade to work with. You can pick up a sharpening steel for relatively cheap online, and save yourself the trouble of having to go and constantly replace your paring knives. Saving money, that’s my gift to you all.

2 oz. Camus Cognac
3/4 oz. Amaro Nonino
1/4 oz. organic medium amber maple syrup
1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice (Eureka lemon used here)
3 dashes Fee Brothers Black Walnut Bitters
2 dashes Angostura Bitters

2″ long strip lemon peel for garnish

In a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice, add cognac, amaro, maple syrup, lemon juice and bitters. Stir to chill about 30 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass over ice. Express lemon oils from the peel over the drink and add the zest to the glass.

Lemony aroma that has a bright, clean start that eases into a warm, nutty sweetness. I served this cocktail over a large (2″ square, like this one) ice cube and found that the slow dilution kept this balanced the whole time I sipped it.