Snowpocalypse has arrived in Ottawa. Forty centimetres of snow in 24 hours. Nature is amazing and I am not having it. The entire nation’s capital is shut down today. Universities, colleges and the government are closed. I will be going to work because I really don’t need any more alone time and I live three blocks away from my office, so I’ll strap on my snowshoes and probably make it there under half an hour.
But, wish me luck, just in case.
Looking at the forecast, I thought many of us might be looking to drown our sorrows with a stiff drink. This Rooibos Old Fashioned should do the trick.
The rooibos tea syrup is divine. It has a rich complexity and velvety texture that makes it good enough to eat with a spoon. I have, however, blended it with bourbon, Fernet Branca, chocolate bitters and a twist of orange for your enjoyment.
As you’ll see in the recipe below, the syrup is so much more than just steeped tea and sugar. You let those two essential ingredients simmer alongside cinnamon, black pepper, honey, and star anise.
I wanted to draw out that black liquorice flavour of the anise by rinsing the glass with absinthe. For the uninitiated, absinthe also has a black liquorice flavour to it. An absinthe rinse simply involves pouring a teaspoon of absinthe into your appointed rocks glass and swishing and slowly rolling the absinthe along the bottom and sides of the glass, disposing of the excess.
This measure adds another layer of depth to the end product and creates a pleasant intensity on the nose.
You might be thinking that 1/2 ounce of the rooibos syrup seems like a lot but Fernet Branca is a very potent herbaceous aperitivo and could easily overpower the nuance of the syrup, were it not for the generous quantity. I can assure you that this drink doesn’t trend into the sweet territory and is decidedly spirited.
I picked up some new ice molds at Pot & Pantry over the weekend and was excited to be able to use one of my new finds for this drink. This specific mold makes perfectly clear ice cubes, as you can see in the photo above. The effect is pretty cool and very en mode in the bar scene – especially in bigger cities.
The other set of molds I got create hexagons, diamonds and little shards to mix up the level of dilution based on the kind of drink you’re making. The size of the cubes makes all the difference in the flavour and strength of the cube. Obviously, smaller cubes or crushed ice will melt much faster than super-sized blocks.
Most Tiki drinks and classics like the Mint Julep should be served with crushed ice. That’s what I use my handy Lewis bag and mallet for. This Triple Crown cocktail I posted last year is a riff on the julep and puts the Lewis bag and mallet to good use in making crushed ice.
Although, given all this snow, it might seem like a crazy time to be thinking about making ice. Stay warm and cozy out there friends!
Rooibos Old Fashioned
- 1 tsp absinthe, preferably Dillon’s
- 1 ½ oz Maker’s Mark bourbon
- ½ oz Rooibos tea syrup recipe follows
- ¼ oz Fernet Branca
- 2 dashes Aztec Chocolate bitters
- 1 strip orange peel
- 1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 10 rooibos tea bags or 10 heaping teaspoons of loose leaf rooibos tea
- 1 star anise
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- 4 black peppercorns
- 3 tbsp honey
Pour 1 tsp of absinthe into a rocks glass. Swish the absinthe along the bottom and sides of the glass, be sure to coat every part of the interior of the glass. Dispose of the excess absinthe.
Fill the glass with ice cubes and add all the cocktail ingredients, except for the absinthe (which you’ve already used for the rinse) and orange peel. Stir for about 30 seconds, then strain through a Hawthorne strainer into a rocks glass filled with ice. Roll up the orange peel and squeeze it above the cocktail to express the citrus oils before placing it in the glass as garnish.
Place all the ingredients for the rooibos tea syrup in a small saucepan with 1 cup of water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the liquid has reduced by a third. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool before straining through a fine-mesh sieve and transferring to a sealed bottle or jar. The aromatics can be discarded. Keep in the fridge until ready to use. Rooibos tea syrup will keep in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.
Recipe adapted from: Ottolenghi, Yotam and Ramael Scully. “Rooibos Old Fashioned.” Nopi. London: Appetite by Random House, 2015.