I’ve been craving a cocktail that tastes like fall, and I think I’ve found it: this spiced pear manhattan with homemade brown sugar simple syrup is like having fall poured right into a glass.
So, the story of how I came up with my first cocktail recipe for the blog is kind of a weird one.
First, I was in a local restaurant chain called Marlow’s Tavern. My boyfriend loves their steak, while their “New Old Fashioned” is one of my favorite splurge cocktails (both in terms of calories and the fact that they aren’t cheap). They have seasonal menus as well, and about a month ago, I switched things up to try their “pear manhattan” — whiskey, pear liqueur, and spice. I loved it. The Georgia heat still hadn’t faded yet, so drinking this cocktail was about as close to autumn as I was going to get at the time.
Fast forward to these last few weeks, and I really got a craving for that pear manhattan again. I’ve been saving up for a very expensive trip to celebrate a friend’s vow renewal (first time I’ve used my passport since 2011!), so rather than rack up another bar tab, I decided it might be worth it to finally start learning how to mix these tasty things back at home. Even if the liquor itself might be more costly upfront, it’s better for my wallet long-term, and having things at home where I could serve them anytime definitely appeals to my wants-to-hibernate-all-winter side. :)
It didn’t really go as planned, however.
The other two ingredients proved to be a little trickier. I couldn’t find a spiced pear liqueur anywhere nearby, and I really haven’t had enough opportunity to travel across town to find it. I also couldn’t find Cardamaro, and mostly had a lot of confused faces when I asked for help in the stores I went to (I’ll admit I was a little annoyed as a customer at all four of the places I went to — clerks not knowing their inventory, the puzzled shrugging at me because they couldn’t identify a good substitute, etc.).
So, I did what I always do when I get frustrated: did some more research, used a little ingenuity, and fixed it my damn self.
First, I figured out that Cardamaro was in the flavor/spirits family of Amari (if I’m even getting all of this new vocabulary right) — basically a group of herbal, sugary liqueurs with bitter notes on the end. So, that meant that even though it might differ from the exact flavor of the one I was searching for, I was in good shape if I could find anything in the ballpark. I found Cynar, which is supposedly more bitter than Cardamaro, but since I love a good hoppy beer (and sad songs), I know I can handle the bitterness just fine. 😉
The other ingredient was spiced pear liqueur — of which, I could find exactly squat nearby. I did find a pear brandy, but since that is actually an ingredient in what makes a spiced pear liqueur, it meant that I would need to make the liqueur homemade, or else the cocktail would be all booze (not that I tried it like that, coughcough).
To make the liqueur, I needed to mix the brandy, pears, spices, and simple syrup… which I also didn’t have. But I figured that since simple syrup is just a 1:1 ratio of sugar and water over heat, that would be the easiest part.
Except, upon looking through my pantry, I didn’t have any regular sugar. I only had brown sugar. It was old and needed to be broken up before I could actually measure it out (holy hell, this cocktail better taste good).
At this point, I was both more determined than ever and also laughing at myself on these obstacles. I’ll post the final spiced pear liqueur recipe separately once I get it just right, but since it’s also supposed to be pretty good with fruit and ice cream, there’s no harm in posting about it twice (once I do a few taste tests of said ice cream dessert, of course).
Anyway: brown sugar syrup, then mixed with brandy and another pear, then allowed to steep for a little while in a mason jar. I learned that simple simple syrup (with no fruit or spices added) actually lasts much longer than when it’s flavored, so I’ll have to try that next time.
After all of that, I most definitely needed a drink. As it happened, I had one ready to go. ;)
The Spiced Pear Manhattan: Like Fall in a Glass
This spiced pear manhattan is all of the best fall flavors swirled into a single cocktail. I may or may not be drinking one as I type this. :)
Pear and Brown Sugar Simple Syrup
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 pear, diced (I used Seckel pears throughout)
Spiced Pear Liqueur
- 1 part Pear and Brown Sugar Simple Syrup
- 1 part pear brandy
- 1 pear, diced
- 1 small cinnamon stick, 4 cloves, 2 cardamom pods (you can omit this if you want to individually spice drinks when mixing)
Spiced Pear Manhattan
- 1 1/2 ounces High West Double Rye
- 1/2 – 3/4 ounces Cynar (based on your bitterness preference)
- 3/4 ounces homemade Pear Liqueur
- 4 drops Bittercube Cherry Bark Vanilla Bitters
- 2-3 cloves, 1 cardamom pod (skip if you added spice to the liqueur)
To make the simple syrup
- Over medium heat, add brown sugar, water, and pear.
- Let simmer and stir until the sugar is dissolved (about 5-10 minutes)
- Remove from heat and let cool.
To make the liqueur
- Take simple syrup and pour 1:1 ratio into container (I used a small mason jar) with pear brandy.
- Add another diced pear.
- Let steep for a few days in the fridge.
- To spice: add cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamom, or other spice of your choosing (such as star anise, nutmeg). Leave these in for just a day or two so as not to overpower the pear (you can also mix these in directly into each cocktail if you don’t want to spice the liqueur).
- After a few days of both the pear and the spice steeping, re-pour into another glass container using a filter (coffee filter, strainer, etc. — whatever will catch the chunks of stuff and leave just the liquid behind).
To make the pear manhattan
- Mix all ingredients into a shaker with ice. If you decided to spice per cocktail instead of in the liqueur, make sure the shaker has a strainer so it catches the spices.
- Shake and pour.
- Garnish with sliced pear, maraschino cherry, or lemon zest.
- For my recipe, I used Seckel pears… they are tiny and sweet and are great just by themselves, so they made for a great prop and garnish too (because I could eat the rest).
- I gave you both options of steeping the spice and just adding it to the cocktail because I started mixing this when it hadn’t fully gained all the spicy flavors from sitting in the fridge. I wanted to try it early, so I added the spice directly into the cocktail for a quick boost of the spice flavorings.
- Remember that the spices will get stronger as they sit in the liqueur, so if you’re not a fan of strong spice, remove earlier.
- Since the simple syrup apparently goes bad weeks sooner if you mix the pears and spices directly into it, you can always keep it separate and put equal parts simple syrup and pear brandy into the cocktail.
- Every time I’ve mixed this, it’s only gotten better!
With these shots, I think you can kind of also see the evolution of my learning how to work lighting around a smaller object (since normally I take photos of DIY and rooms, taking food pictures is like learning how to take blog photography all over again… not that I was an expert at it before).
Not to mention, working during the winter (getting dark around 5 now!) and with my only source of natural light at the kitchen window, having the space to really capture color and texture is a lot tougher than it looks! I want to work on making the light a little softer in the future, but overall, it turned out as I wanted: it tastes just like fall.
The cocktail also looks pretty snazzy, if I do say so myself. Do you have a favorite fall cocktail?
P.S. For more cocktail ideas, you should check out my contributors, Biscuits and Burlap, who are sharing some of their ideas periodically on this blog as well in my Recipes section — to keep us all well-imbibed during this awkward-family-interaction season. ;)