Come fall, my palate is already calling out for the heat and aroma from the fireplace. There is something about wood heat that fills me with warmth for the coming cold months. I love the snap of the fire and the brooding heat that fills the room.
The same holds true for my cocktails. I seek out brown liquors that speak of warmth like whiskey spun into a very seasonal cocktail.
Smoked American whiskey is a wonderful match for a citrus-oil–tinged tea like Earl Grey. Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you start spiking your morning pick-me-up; this delicate cocktail proves that Earl Grey isn’t just for breakfast anymore. Bound together by homemade ginger simple syrup, the Ulysses delivers spicy, sweet, smoky, and even salty—all at once. This cocktail is named for the Greek hero of the epic poem The Odyssey. Reluctant to leave his homeland of Ithaca, he pretended to be insane by sowing his fields with salt instead of grain. In his honor, the final touch to the Ulysses is a pinch of sea salt, which adds an unexpected, crunchy kick. It’s a delicious finish. The ingredients for this cocktail are simplicity themselves, but the sum of the parts is truly bewitching.
Ulysses Left on Ithaca Cocktail (serves 2)
- 4 ounces (120 ml) freshly brewed Earl Grey tea, cooled
- 3 ounces (90 ml) smoked American whiskey (like Balcones Brimstone or the salubrious and rare, limited edition Knob Creek Smoked Maple Bourbon)
- 2- ounces (60 ml) Spicy Ginger Honey Simple Syrup (see below)
- 1-ounce (30 ml) club soda
- 2 pinches of sea salt
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- Brew and cool the Earl Grey tea.
- Fill a mixing glass three-quarters full with ice.
- Pour the whiskey, tea, and the Spicy Ginger Honey Simple Syrup over the ice, then stir to combine.
- Taste for sweetness: If it’s not sweet enough, add a bit more simple syrup.
- Place a chunk of hand-cut ice into each of two short rocks glasses. (If you really want to bring out the gingery taste of the simple syrup, make ginger ice in advance: Freeze slices of fresh ginger root into your homemade ice.)
- Add the splash of club soda to each glass, and top each with a pinch of sea salt to add a welcome “crunch” to each sip.
- Garnish with the thyme sprigs—and get ready to pour a second round.
Raw Honey Simple Syrup:
In a medium saucepan, combine 1-cup (340 g) honey with 1/2 cup (120 ml) water and simmer, mixing until the honey has dissolved. Let the mixture cool. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to a month.
Ginger Honey Simple Syrup:
Make a batch of Raw Honey Simple Syrup. Add 1/4 cup (25 g) finely chopped fresh (preferably young) ginger. Pour the mixture into an airtight container, and let it steep in the fridge for a couple days. Strain before using. Use within 2 weeks. If it becomes frothy or speaks in pirate tongues, throw it out!
Spicy Ginger Honey Simple Syrup:
Make a batch of Raw Ginger Honey Simple Syrup, and add 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Pour the mixture into an airtight container, and let it steep in the fridge for a couple days. Strain before using. Use within 2 weeks. This can also be added to a glass of seltzer water, making ginger beer like you’ve never tasted before!