OPINION | FRONT BURNER: Sweet and smoky cocktails to make the season merry and bright

Smoked Cinnamon Apple and Bourbon (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)
Smoked Cinnamon Apple and Bourbon (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

Now that the Thanksgiving leftovers are history and the leaves have fallen, pumpkin spice is out and peppermint is — or soon will be — everywhere.

I know, I know, it's December. It's seasonably appropriate. But I'm not ready for the peppermint takeover.

Especially in cocktails.

Mint can easily overpower a drink, drowning out all the other flavors. Also, it reminds me of toothpaste. And maybe (absolutely) far too many shots of Rumple Minze in my youth.

So what am I drinking? Bourbon, Scotch and the occasional rum drink. And in a couple of weeks, homemade eggnog.

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This cocktail combines apples, whiskey (I used bourbon) and a flaming cinnamon stick for a dramatic presentation and subtle smoky flavor.

Smoked Cinnamon Apple

  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Crushed ice
  • 1 ½ ounces whiskey
  • 4 ounces apple juice
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • Freshly cracked black pepper, optional
  • An apple slice, for garnish

Carefully light one end of the cinnamon stick on fire until cinnamon stick is smoking. Place smoking cinnamon stick on a heat-safe surface and cover with a rocks glass. Let the smoke fill the glass for 2 to 4 minutes.

Upright glass and fill with crushed ice; add whiskey and top with apple juice and bitters. Sprinkle with black pepper, if using. Garnish with apple slice and cinnamon stick.

Makes 1 drink.

Recipe adapted from Carolina Gelen via Instagram

  photo  Smoldering Manhattan (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)
Smoldering Manhattan

  • 7 stemless cocktail cherries, drained, divided use (I used Amarena black cherries)
  • 2 fresh rosemary sprigs, divided use
  • 2 ounces rye whiskey
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes bitters
  • Ice

Place five of the cherries on a heat-safe surface. Lay one of the rosemary sprigs over the cherries.

Hold a flame to the rosemary sprig until it catches fire. Place a rocks glass over rosemary sprig and cherries. Leave for 5 minutes.

Turn glass over and release rosemary smoke. Discard charred rosemary sprig. Add the smoked cherries to a shaker and muddle to a pulp and then add the whiskey, vermouth and bitters; shake until well combined.

Fill the rocks glass with ice and strain rye mixture over ice. Add the remaining cherries.

Add the remaining rosemary sprig for garnish.

Makes 1 drink.

Recipe adapted from bbqguys.com

  photo  Cable Car (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)
If setting cinnamon sticks and rosemary sprigs on fire sounds too much for you, consider the Cable Car: a delectable mixture of spiced rum, orange liqueur and lemon served with a cinnamon sugar rim.

Cable Car

  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 lemon wedge PLUS 1 ounce lemon juice, divided use
  • Ice
  • 1 ½ ounces spiced rum
  • ¾ ounce orange curacao or other orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier
  • ½ ounce simple syrup (see note)
  • Orange spiral, optional garnish

In a shallow dish such as a wide saucer, combine the cinnamon and sugar.

Rub the rim of a cocktail glass with the lemon wedge to moisten. Dip rim in cinnamon sugar. Set aside.

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the rum, orange curacao, lemon juice and simple syrup. Shake until well chilled. Double strain into the prepared glass.

Garnish with an orange spiral and serve.

Makes 1 drink.

Note: To make simple syrup combine equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan, stirring until sugar is moistened. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Simmer about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Will keep refrigerated for 3 months.

Recipe adapted from Liquor.com

Cable Car (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)
Cable Car (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

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