This Cocktail Was Inspired By Fruitcake

It's a boozy, fruity, smoky delight.

December 19, 2019

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Fruitcake gets a bad rap — derided as a fruit-studded paperweight, an old-lady dessert you only eat if you need to be polite. But one mixologist is out to change the way we think about the oft-maligned holiday tradition.

Nathan Elliott, lead bartender at Bacchus Bar at the Kimpton Vintage Hotel Portland in Oregon has reimagined fruitcake in cocktail form. For his Last Minute Gift, he starts with a malty Scotch. It’s shaken with bitter orange Calisaya liqueur, a dash of walnut bitters, cherry liqueur for a touch of sweetness and an oat-based milk steeped overnight in baking spices. The drink is served on the rocks adorned with dried amarena cherries, golden raisins and a sprig of rosemary.

“My hang-up with holiday cocktails is they’re often cloyingly sweet,” Elliott says. “I wanted to take the flavors of an iconic fruitcake and rework them into a drinkable cocktail that’s not too heavy or so sweet.”

Though he’s not really a big fan of pastries, Elliott admits to enjoying a slice of rum-soaked fruitcake from time to time. “At its worst, fruitcake is a nearly-hard-as-a-rock loaf of fake green-red jellied fruits and bread, which seems to always be re-gifted,” he believes. “But when it’s made correctly with the right ingredients, it can be quite the experience.”

His balanced liquid take still delivers the elements of breadiness, silky spice and fruitiness of the divisive Christmas cake; it’s also vegan-friendly because of the oat milk. He believes it appeals to anyone looking for a refreshing alternative to all those sugary, creamy, over-the-top holiday sips out there right now, and is the kind of thing you’d want to receive as a gift.

Last Minute Gift

Recipe courtesy of Nathan Elliott

  • 1 1/2 oz. Scotch whisky
  • 1 oz. spiced oat milk (see Note)
  • 1/2 oz. bitter orange liqueur
  • 1/4 oz. cherry liqueur
  • 1/4 oz. demerara syrup (equal parts demerara sugar and water, simmered until sugar dissolves)
  • Dash walnut bitters
  • Sprig of rosemary, dried amarena cherries and golden raisins, for garnish

Add all ingredients except garnishes to a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake for five seconds. Strain over fresh ice in a double Old Fashioned glass and garnish with the rosemary sprig and dried fruit.

For the spiced oat milk:

In a container with a tight-fitting lid, combine 1 cup oat milk, 1 cardamom pod, 1 cinnamon stick, 1/2 tbsp. allspice berries and freshly grated nutmeg. Seal tightly, shake thoroughly and let steep in the refrigerator for a day. Strain into a bottle and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

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