While Pumpkin Spice Mania tends to take over this time of year, there are any number of ways to create cocktails with fall flavors that don’t rely on pumpkin (or pumpkin flavoring). One of our favorites? This rum-sweet potato number: the “High Voltage” from Aaron Polsky, coming soon to the menu at Harvard & Stone in Los Angeles. “It’s great for entertaining once the weather gets crisp,” says Polsky.
The key ingredient is a sweet potato syrup that Polsky makes himself, simple enough for home bartenders to master as well.
Just juice a sweet potato, stir in an equal amount of sugar, strain, and you’re done. “The sweet potato is something I played a lot with in our R&D bar. It’s very low acid, and decently low in sugar, so it’s easy to make a syrup with,” says Polsky. “It makes amazing daiquiris, and this is an evolution thereof.” (Sweet potato daiquiris? Sign us up.)
From a base of rich overproof rum—or rye, if you’re a whiskey lover—the drink builds with that sweet potato syrup, along with warm spice flavors from the Czech herbal liqueur Becherovka and mole bitters. “The spices in the Becherovka and bitters evoke the flavors of Thanksgiving dessert,” says Polsky, “while the aged rum or whiskey gives it structure.” (He notes that mole bitters are a great staple in the home bar: “They can be used in Old Fashioned, Manhattan, and Negroni variations, so they’re a very versatile ingredient to have around.”)
The cocktail is versatile, too—working well with either spirit, depending on what you’re in the mood for. “The rum plays and accents more the flavors in the sweet potato,” according to Polsky, “whereas the rye accents the Becherovka, and is drier and spicier.”
And if you’re making the drink for a crowd—starting to plan Thanksgiving dinner, say?—just turn it into a punch; make a big batch, then top with either sparkling wine or ginger beer. Party drink: done.
If you’re opting for rum, Polsky recommends the rich, crazy high-proof Plantation OFTD for this one; if rye, the 100-proof Old Overholt Bonded Rye is a good bet.
2 ounces aged overproof rum or 100-proof rye whiskey
¾ ounce homemade sweet potato syrup*
⅓ ounce Becherovka
¾ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 drops Bittermens mole bitters
Instructions: Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until well-chilled, then strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with an orange twist.
Try it as a punch…
20 ounces aged overproof rum (or 101-proof rye whiskey)
7½ ounces homemade sweet potato syrup*
3⅓ ounces Becherovka
7½ ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
30 drops Bittermens mole bitters
12 ounces (½ bottle) sparkling wine, or 12 ounces ginger beer
Instructions: Combine ingredients except sparkling wine or ginger beer in a punch bowl with ice. Stir until well-combined, then top with sparkling wine or ginger beer. Serve with glasses alongside.
*Sweet Potato Syrup
Juice one sweet potato in a fruit and vegetable juicer (more, if you’re preparing for a crowd.) Add an equal volume of sugar and stir until dissolved. Strain through a mesh strainer before using. Refrigerate any extra syrup.
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