Taste of the Holidays: Hickory Smoked Maple Syrup Old Fashioned

By Candice Wagener | Photography and Food Styling by Sunny Frantz

As co-owner of distillery J. Henry & Sons, it’s challenging for Liz Henry to choose just one favorite cocktail that evokes special memories. But the Hickory Smoked Maple Syrup Old Fashioned — a.k.a the JoeZ Old Fashioned — definitely stands out. It’s her son’s favorite go-to libation to make in the distillery’s tasting room.

At the AC Hotel Madison Downtown, bartender Craig Spaulding even uses small hickory wood stumps from the Henry’s farm to craft the cocktail. He lights part of the stump, then places a lowball or rocks glass on top of it to capture the smoke to impart that signature smokiness in this Old Fashioned. Henry says they’ve given several of these stumps to local bartenders to craft the cocktail.

“Immediately, people get that warm, fuzzy, happy feeling of the smell of a campfire or somebody’s wood-burning fireplace,” says Henry, noting that the smoky flavor gives “you a whole different dimension of flavor in a cocktail.”

Cocktails are a go-to around the holidays, because you can create something to please everyone without much hassle. Another personal favorite of Henry’s, which can be served over ice or warmed up, is the farmer’s cocktail. It’s a mix of tart lemonade, small-batch bourbon and a mint simple syrup (which they craft in-house using mint from the Henry Farm). “It’s a favorite cocktail in the tasting room, whether you’re a bourbon drinker or not,” says Henry.

The key to making a really good cocktail, says Henry, is using the freshest, highest-quality ingredients. Pitch anything that’s been sitting in the back of your liquor cabinet for too long and start anew. She also looks forward to the changing seasons to try out new flavors.

“Every season provides a new palette of things that are available,” says Henry. “It’s interesting to make savory cocktails with sage and rosemary — some of those flavors that really highlight a meal and make flavors pop.”

Hickory Smoked Maple Syrup Old Fashioned

Yield: One cocktail

This cocktail is easy and delicious. It exudes warmth and is perfect for sharing with friends. You’ll need a slice of hickory or cherry wood for smoking the glass. Pour some alcohol on the wood surface and let it soak in, so when you apply a flame from a crème brulée lighter, you will burn the surface until it lights a flame and then it will smoke. Place your rocks glass upside down over the smoking wood and let it rest there while you prepare the cocktail.

Ingredients

  • 1⁄2 oz. maple syrup
  • 3 dashes Bittercube Chipotle Cacao bitters
  • 2 oz. J. Henry & Sons Small Batch Bourbon

For garnish:

  • Orange twist
  • Dark chocolate bar shavings

Equipment

  • Rocks glass
  • Stir glass
  • Hawthorne strainer
  • Stir spoon
  • Veggie peeler, lemon zester or channel knife

Instructions

Place ice into a stirring glass. Add bourbon, syrup and bitters. Stir for 30 seconds or more until it’s mixed and thoroughly chilled.

Place a large cube (2 x 2-inch square) of ice in your smoked rocks glass. Strain the bourbon out of the mixing glass into the smoked rocks glass.

Garnish with an orange peel and/or strip of chocolate shavings, if you like.


Read more from our “Taste of the Holidays” 2021 feature here.

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