Friday, October 10, 2014

The Hard Stuff: Les Brers

Les Brers
One of the early goals in my shrub making venture was to push the flavor boundaries of what people had been doing with them for years, which is either making a shrub with one type of fruit or in some instances pairing them with an herb or spice.
It feels like my primary approach is to think more as a modern cook might, and that meant thinking of dishes people really enjoy, and then attempting to translate something evocative of those flavors in the shrubs that I was making.
In the case of the original incarnation of Jessica, I went for a sort of peach cobbler or tart flavor by incorporating allspice berries, vanilla, and brown sugar with ripe yellow peaches. On the one hand, this worked pretty well, and if one were going to only mix it with soda or eat it with ice cream, the complexity was quite welcome, as it gave those applications some additional mystery and depth.
Recently, as I re-examined this profile, it seemed a little bit limiting. While all of these flavors were certainly tasty, it was not the sort of package you could use in a wide variety of cocktails without basically hitting a wall in terms of versatility. Hence, the decision to change the shrub to a more simple peach and brown sugar model.

Despite the fact that the new formula of Jessica does a much better job of highlighting the fruit, there was something about that flavor profile I just couldn't shake. It occurred to me that there was no earthly reason why this peach shrub couldn't still bring those delightful elements together, I would simply have to change the medium.I immediately thought of one of my favorite cocktails that shares some similar flavors with the old version of the shrub, The Lion's Tail.

The Lion's Tail is a bourbon based cocktail that dates back to the Cafe Royal Cocktail Book which came out in England sometime in the late 30's. A fine combination of the aforementioned bourbon with lime juice, allspice liqueur, Angostura bitters, and a tiny bit of simple syrup for balance, The Lion's Tail is one of those cocktails that turns out to be kind of the autumn sweater of cocktails: warm, smooth, and just enough spice to evoke memories of cuddling under blankets and fireplaces and what have you.

These ingredients of the original cocktail are just begging for the addition of some peach in the mix, and there is no question that peaches and bourbon are an excellent match, but that seemed a little too rote. I wanted more vanilla and richness to meld right into the peach and the allspice, and I knew that Zaya 12 year was going to be the base of this cocktail.

Zaya 12 year, is a very vanilla forward rum; an extremely smooth operator that is usually best employed over a large ice cube for an evening sipper, it had those very prominent notes I wanted to get a peach cobbler vibe across, but with a bit of flash and muscle rather than delving into the sickly sweet dessert-in-a-glass route.

The rest of the ingredient list was the same, with the keen addition of a healthy slug of new formula Jessica, a lessening of the lime and allspice liqueur and the complete omission of the simple syrup which had basically been replaced by the concentrated shrub syrup.

As it turned out after a half a bottle worth of attempts, my first attempt was actually the best one, and it's the one I am going to share with you.

So without further ado, please enjoy the Les Brers.

Les Brers

2 oz Zaya 12 rum(or another vanilla forward rum)
.75 oz Jessica
.25 oz lime juice
.25 oz St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
1 dash Angostura bitters

Combine ingredients in shaker with ice. Shake vigourously until chilled and strain up into a cocktail glass. No garnish.


In regard to the name, Les Brers is a truncated version of the Allman Brothers Band song "Les Brers in A Minor" which follows the shrub being named Jessica, after another Allman Brothers tune of some note.

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