I'm actually not a huge cocktail connoisseur. Normally, I'm completely content with a nice, cold IPA, but there's something about the beginning of summertime that makes me want to slurp down something with a little more frill. If you've spent any time with me in the past few weeks, you've probably heard me raving about the kumquat whiskey sours I tried at a party hosted by a colleague of mine when I was in DC for a work trip. My colleague is particularly interested in bourbon; she's written extensively about the meaning of heritage, craft, and innovation in the production and marketing of America's native spirit, so naturally, we had a lot to talk about. We sat around a bonfire in her backyard, and she shared the story of how these cocktails came to be: desperate for kumquats in early March, she ordered in bulk from Florida. Once the big box of citrus finally arrived, she spent hours halving the fruit, removing the seeds, candying them in simple syrup and canning the mixture to save for later. She'd ordered so much fruit that she had to pause for breaks between steps, retreating to her porch to take in the fresh spring air before returning to slicing and seeding. While her recipe is actually quite simple, canning in bulk is always a huge undertaking, and I can get behind any culinary process that asks for my patience, labor and time in exchange for a delicious summer treat. I left the party determined to scrounge up some kumquats to make my own.
I ran into the same kind of trouble with sourcing kumquats locally. Of course, it's spring, and citrus aren't the most abundant crop in New York. Fortunately, Good Eggs, a Brooklyn based foodhub that sources from local farmers and carries a variety of high-quality staple products that aren't available locally, had kumquats in stock, so I placed a bulk order and had a tote of fresh fruit at my door in a matter of days.
Kumquats are hardy tree fruit with a strong spicy, woody flavor. Over the past few years they've become increasingly popular as a key ingredient in anything that features candied fruit –– cocktails, teas, and of course, marmalades and jellies. The skin is edible, though they can also be peeled like a clementine and dipped in sugar as a sweet treat. And as it happens, this cocktail recipe is as simple and sweet as it comes; just halved kumquats, skins still on, sugar, water, and good, old fashioned bourbon.
Candied Kumquat Whiskey Sours
Makes 5 pints kumquat syrup.
> 2 1/2 lbs whole kumquats
> 3 cups sugar
> 3 cups water
> Juice of 1 lemon
1. Halve the kumquats and remove any large, onerous seeds. Set aside in a large bowl.
2. Prepare a simple syrup, enough to cover the fruit. Add the sugar and water to a large pot, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer until the sugar has completely dissolved.
3. Transfer the halved kumquats the the pot and bring to a boil once again. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the fruit is soft and candied. Your kitchen should smell absolutely glorious.
4. Let cool completely. Pour the roasted kumquat syrup into a blender, puree, and ladle into canning jars.
5. Combine equal parts kumquat syrup and bourbon in a drink mixer. Add ice and the juice of half a lemon. Shake until mixed. Pour into glasses until they're 3/4 the way full.
6. Top each drink with prosecco and serve. Add a sprig of mint or an extra rind as a garnish. You'll have extra kumquat syrup; store in the freezer until a hot summer day, and pull it out to impress your friends at a park picnic.